Tall order for civil servants

Updated: 2014-07-21 07:03

By An Baijie (China Daily)

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Li Wei, a professor of clean-governance research with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that since government officials have chosen to be in the civil service, they should give up some of their rights and interests.

Banning grand celebrations can boost frugality and cut unnecessary social activities to help them spend more time with their families, he said.

Officials' resignation

Necessary change

Government officials are spending more time with their families thanks to the crackdown on graft, latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

Officials spent an average of 30 minutes more at home every day in 2013 compared with a year ago, said Zhang Zhongliang, director of the bureau's finance department.

He attributed the change to the "eight-point" frugality rules put forward in late 2012, which require officials to clean up undesirable work styles including extravagance and hedonism. Lavish banquets using public funds have been banned since.

County-level officials had to attend an average of 18 social banquets every week in 2012 and the number fell by about one-third last year, the bureau found.

"In the past, some officials had to attend several banquets simultaneously, eating for a while at one table and then toasting at another," Zhang said.

In a speech in January last year, President Xi Jinping told officials to attend fewer social occasions, including public banquets, ceremonies and celebrations.

"Government officials should spend less time on social banquets and eat more at home," Xi said during the annual conference of the top anti-graft watchdog.

"With the time saved (from social activities), officials should read more books."

"Some county chiefs said that they had to spend three to four hours every day on social banquets, and some officials in hot springs regions have to accompany others to bathe for seven to eight times each day," Xi said.

A number of high-end restaurants and luxury hotels have also reported losses amid the anti-graft campaign.

Beijing Xiangeqing Group Co Ltd, a listed nationwide restaurant chain, recorded a loss of 564 million yuan ($90.86 million) last year. The company said that marked the most difficult time in its history.

Zhang, the statistics official, said that the anti-graft rules lowered GDP growth by about 0.6 to 1.5 percent last year, which he said is an unavoidable price to pay for better governance.

- An Baijie

The tightened regulations toward officials have forced many of them, including some who work for the central ministries, to quit their jobs.

On March 30, Chen Xitong, former spokesman for the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, was employed as a senior executive at Qihoo 360, a company that offers Internet and mobile security services to more than 400 million users.

A civil servant for more than two decades, Chen had worked his way to a vice-prefecture-level official. Chen has not said publicly why he quit his official post.

A report by Xin'an Evening News said that at least five officials in Hefei, capital of Anhui province, also resigned from their posts last year.

It remains unclear how many officials have resigned nationwide. A survey of about 2,500 grassroots officials in 10 provinces by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences last year showed that about 79.89 percent of them said they are tired of their jobs.

More officials are quitting their "iron rice bowl" jobs - considered to offer steady income and social security - amid the anti-graft drive, said a report published in May by the Southern Weekly, which is based in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.

In mid-January, Lin Yingwu, director of the Guangdong Provincial Department of Human Resources and Social Security, said that he had also noticed some news reports about government officials' resignation.

It is natural for some civil servants to want to take on new jobs and their choices should be respected, he told reporters during the annual session of the provincial people's congress.

Li Yang, an official from Tianjin municipality, said that he is considering quitting his job and returning to Beijing to look for new work. Four years ago, he resigned from a media company in Beijing and became a civil servant.

"A government job is not the same as what the public takes for granted. It's hard for me to take a break even during the weekend," he said, adding that his salary cannot meet his family's financial needs such as repaying loans for his house.

He is set for promotion this year but he would rather get a new job with higher pay and "less mental stress", Li said.

The number of applicants for civil servant posts in 21 provincial areas is about 2.56 million this year, about 360,900 less than last year, according to statistics released in April by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Zhou Shuzhen, a professor of clean-governance research with Renmin University of China, said that the decrease of civil servant applicants is good news because it shows that college graduates are choosing more "creative" jobs.

"The nature of civil service jobs is to serve the people rather than accumulate wealth; if the officials are not satisfied with their jobs, they can choose to leave," she said.

But for many college graduates, getting a civil service position remains their top choice.

Gu Ruocun, a graduate from Shandong Normal University, said that his girlfriend's mother has required him to apply for a government position.

"I have heard that civil servant jobs are not as ideal as many people think, but I would like to have a go," Gu said, adding that it is not easy to get a job since 7.27 million college students are expected to graduate this year.

Contact the writer at anbaijie@chinadaily.com.cn


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