Shop Digital Version Subscribe to the Print Edition TWOC TV

Everyone wants an Iron Rice bowl

'Iron Rice Bowl' highly sought after by job-hungry Chinese


Registration for next year’s annual civil servant exam came to a close yesterday, and by the end of the day 1.36 million applicants were processed. The total number of applicants hoping to eat from the “iron rice bowl” (铁饭碗 tiě fànwǎn) is expected to exceed 1.5 million this year, while the total number of available positions is only 19,000. This most competitive of the national positions has a ratio of 7183:1-  at the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China. The most competitive position in Beijing is a position that monitors and inspects chengguan in Pinggu District, Beijing News reports. Only one person can get the job, but over one thousand are competing for it.

According to the report, the most popular positions include customs, post office, police, earthquake, tax auditing, and insurance. However, applicants mostly flock to positions based in large cities in economically developed areas, few wish to be civil servants in remote areas. Meteorological bureaus in heavily polluted areas such as Beijing and Hebei are also unpopular, perhaps because of the extreme difficulty involved in alleviating pollution. SCMP reports:

“On average, 50 applicants will compete for each “iron rice bowl” job in China’s civil service, promising less pay than in the private sector but lifelong job security.

A list of unclaimed positions by an education consultancy revealed how recent scandals have made some career opportunities just too risky to be worthwhile.”

Civil servants with the “iron rice bowl” are considered to have a steady and well-compensated career. Nanfang Daily reveals that the salary and benefits for civil servants in Guangzhou add up to over 170,000 RMB. The salary spent on Guangzhou’s government employees per person is 2.79 times more than regular workers. Amidst problems with China’s aging population, the spending on retired employees is 1.4 times as much as a retired corporate employees.

This year has also been the most difficult year for graduates to find jobs. The civil servant exam has always been popular for those who seek a safe and well-paid career. Last year 34,000 people in Hubei went to take the exam despite the rain. For positions starting in 2014 each job has 70 applicants on average.

Image courtesy of 楚天都市报.

Follow us

Subscribe to our newsletter