More Chinese Graduates Choose Safe Careers

Nine million graduates are looking for employment in China in 2021, a historically high figure. Working for state-owned organizations has becoming increasingly attractive with the downsizing of many multinationals and private enterprises, and the devastating lay-offs in the real estate, gaming and training industries.

The average offer/application rate for public servant exams was 1:38 in 2021, as compared to three years ago when it was 1:25. For some positions the success ratio is 1:1000. Chinese education media company Cingta conducted research on graduates from 46 top Chinese universities in 2019 and found that over 50% chose to work “within the system”.

20 years ago, ten million Chinese public servants chose to leave their “iron bowl” jobs (working in the state sector) and threw themselves into the sea of the vibrant private sector. In 2021, 75% of Peking University graduates looking for employment were looking for an “iron bowl” position, whereas this figure was only 50% seven years ago. According to the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) and Guanghua Management School, 43.2% of Chinese overseas returnees also considered working “within the system”.

Zhihu (the Chinese equivalent of Quora) published news of a Yale University Electrical Engineering graduate taking a public servant position exam in a 4th tier city in China. Zhihu concluded that the choice of “Safe Haven” reflects the loss of confidence in private enterprises and the broken dreams of many start-ups. Salaries in the public sector have also significantly increased, reducing the gap between the public and private sector.

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