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February 7, 2010

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China to shake up the iron rice bowl

CHINESE who dream of securing a lifetime "iron rice bowl" civil service job might have to think again, as the country mulls over expanding a system that could sack civil servants for poor job performance.

According to Yang Shiqiu, vice head of the State Administration of Civil Service, his administration will promote this year a system piloted in southern China's Shenzhen City to classify civil servants into different categories and to sack those with poor performances.

Civil servants would be classified into general management, law enforcement and technical professionals, according to Yang.

"The classification is a key principle of the Civil Servant Law," Yang said. "It could help improve the management of civil servants and encourage them to develop their abilities."

Yang's words came days after Shenzhen City in southern Guangdong Province announced its plan to reform its system for the city's civil servants.

"We plan to expand the pilot reform to more places across the country this year ... in order to deepen and perfect the reform," Yang said.

The civil service has long been considered an "iron rice bowl" job in China, a term indicating stable employment and steady income. There are about 5 million civil servants and more than 1 million people apply for government posts every year.

But China has already been considering to replace the "iron rice bowls" with more fragile ones, to turn civil service into an incentive-oriented, performance-driven career option.

On Wednesday, Shenzhen City announced its plan to reform the employment system for the city's civil servants.

According to Wang Min, director of Shenzhen's Human Resources and Social Security Department, nearly 70 percent of civil servants will be classified under either law enforcement or technical professionals after the reform.

Salaries in the categories would be unhooked from rank, but linked to years of service, job performances and professional skills.


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