China reform brings job cuts

May 15, 1998

The most radical restructuring of Chinese government since the Communists came to power in 1949 is having a direct affect on graduate job prospects.

Chinese premier Zhu Rongji has announced sweeping reforms of public service. The number of ministries is to be cut from 40 to 29 and more than a third of the government workforce is to be made redundant within three years.

Zhu, nicknamed "the boss" because of his record of strong action in previous posts, seems set to live up to his nickname.

Half of the postholders in the ministry of education will have to find new employment which has made competition for jobs among present graduates more intense.

In addition, undergraduates have been told that by the time they graduate in three years' time, the old manpower planning system, which guaranteed a government job for life for all graduates, will cease to exist.

Ninety per cent of students interviewed at meetings in Henan province said they had little hope of a government job. Many students are taking jobs in smaller towns where they can progress faster rather than compete for the limited jobs in the cities.

There is a lingering suspicion of the private sector, despite the considerably higher salaries. Students tend to look for job satisfaction as their first priority, but, in the private sector this has to be weighed against the lack of job security.

However, attitudes are changing and many students are likely to face little choice but a career in the private sector.

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