As the economy stagnates and employment trends in mainland China change dramatically. How do young Chinese choose jobs?

China’s youth seek the safety of civil service

Out of state media, more than 2.6 million people have signed up for the quality civil service exam, competing for 37,000 jobs in central government and tens of thousands of other provincial and city government positions. 

This year, unprecedented numbers of people have expressed interest in joining the civil service despite some cities’ governments cutting wages due to financial constraints, which is a warning that economic malaise is due to the zero-COVID policy. According to Xinhua, as many as 6,000 candidates were competing for some positions, with a typical ratio of 70 to 1.

According to Reuters, as an elite physics student at Peking University, Lynn Lau expected to work in a big Chinese company. But with the world’s second-largest economy growing at its slowest rate in decades, many recruiters did not expand recruitment demand this year.

Chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, Alicia Garcia-Herrero, says the preference for civil servant jobs has surged.

She said, “The reasons are obvious: the negative sentiment, the fear of the future.”

With long hours and a lot of stress, working circumstances for private companies are becoming increasingly difficult in an economy affected by COVID-19 lockdowns, a decline in the housing market, and a weakening demand for exports.

The young Chinese refer to the civil service on social media as “the end of the universe,” meaning it is the safest place in such a setting.

The exam, scheduled for December 3–4, has been postponed because of COVID-19 breakouts. No new date has been revealed, which has increased the pressure.

Private firms in tech, finance, or tutoring are shedding tens of thousands of jobs and youth unemployment, this year’s young unemployment rate reached a record 20%.

On the other hand, Chinese youth forgo the traditional labor market in favor of flexible employment

New kinds of flexible employment are emerging due to new employee attitudes toward jobs and diversified employment practices in many industries. Workers desire flexibility in their employment, including where, when, and how they work.

The fraction of job postings that include “flexibility” has increased by 83%. On LinkedIn, mentions of “flexibility” in posts increased by 343%. A survey on “naked resign,” a Chinese term for leaving a job before seeking a replacement, revealed this practice. According to 51Job, one of the largest headhunting firms in China, excessive pressure and monotonous jobs are the two leading causes of such resignations.

Sociology professor of Shanghai’s Fudan University, Yu Hai said that in these rapidly evolving times, traditional forms of employment have expanded, and society is becoming more accepting of newly emerging professions.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of last year, more than 1.6 million of the 200 million workers in flexible employment in China worked in live streaming and other new media platforms.

Ms. Lu Sina, living in Hangzhou, 28, opted to start her own business after graduating. After graduating from the Sichuan Conservatory of Music in 2016 with a degree in culture industry administration, she co-founded a travel firm with a fellow.

Ms. Tang Xue, 24, bought a farm in the Zhejiang of Anji six months prior. She was drawn to the concept of working outside, getting away from the hectic city life, meeting new people, and living the ideal lifestyle. Her 1.3-hectare tiny farm includes a 160 square-meter courtyard. With clients placing orders for the vegetables she grows, she intends to operate the farm as a “shared vegetable field” project.

Mr. Shen Yiming, 28, took a vacation from the high-pressure profession and uncertain prospects after working in the tourism industry for more than three years. In a former company, he gave his task his all and rose to the position of top consultant. Shen had to reconsider his job because of the demanding, nonstop work schedule. After that, he decided to step down and pursue a passion.

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