BEIJING, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- China is trying to have more workers and farmers and fewer university graduates working as public servants because university graduates may have achieved academically, but farmers and workers often have grass-roots life experience.
But achieving the goal has not been easy -- for the government, and workers and farmers as well.
The annual National Public Servant Exam on Dec. 5 attracted more than 1 million candidates for 16,000 vacancies around the country, according to Nie Shengkui, a senior State Administration of Civil Service official.
For the first time, it was stipulated that workers and farmers were preferred for some of the positions, in a move to make the exam more inclusive.
As part of the pilot project, a total of 14 positions in grass-roots branches of central government departments at the county-level or below - including customs, taxation and rail police - in the regions of Guangdong, Sichuan, Xinjiang and Gansu were reserved for workers and farmers.
Including more grass-roots workers and farmers in the exam is an improvement in the civil servant selection process, said Zhao Shuming, a professor of human resource management at Nanjing University in east China's Jiangsu Province.
Compared with university graduates, workers and farmers are suited to some public service positions that involve work with grass-roots people, Zhao said.
However, according to Nie, only 62 workers and farmers of the 171 qualified applicants took the exam.
"The competition in the public service exam is fierce, and I believe many workers and farmers lacked the confidence to take the exam," said Li Zhen, an official in Sichuan's provincial Department of Human Resources and Social Security.
Li said that to his knowledge, there were no workers and farmers that took the exam in the province.
"Become a civil servant? I have never thought of that," said a migrant worker surnamed Zhang who does odd jobs for a construction company in Chengdu, Sichuan's provincial capital.
"Even if I had applied, I don't think I would have got a position," he said, adding that his ambition is to learn practical skills and find a job with better pay.
In fact, China has never excluded workers and farmers from taking the public service exam, Zhao said.
Nonetheless, most of the positions require bachelor degrees or above, effectively excluding workers and farmers, he added.
Even this year's vacancies reserved for workers and farmers required at least a junior college degree.
Zhao said university students have an advantage in the exam over workers and farmers because the test tends to focus on book knowledge.
Zhao called for more diversification in public servant selection processes to give farmers and workers more opportunities.
Different from the unified exam system at the national level, northwest China's Gansu Province has two selection systems - one for general candidates and one for grass-roots farmers and workers.
The exam for farmers and workers does not have rigid education requirements and tends to focus on candidates' ability to handle real life problems, said He Tianpeng, a Gansu government official in charge of public servant selection.
In additional to written examinations and interviews, there will also be some workplace inspections and home visits to assess worker and farmer candidates, He said.
The province will launch a trial project in four cities -- Baiyin, Tianshui, Jiuquan and Dingxi -- by the end of this year.
According to the preliminary plan, positions reserved for the workers and farmers will make up about 3 percent of the total, which means no more than 10 positions in each city.
"It is good news for me. I am thinking about applying for the positions," said Zhang Jun, a worker in Tianshui with a vocational school eduation background.
However, He Tianpeng said there are problems forming a well-designed selection system for workers and farmers.
"The first problem is how to define a farmer in a modern society with great mobility of population," He said. "Is a migrant worker in a city who left farming still a farmer? Are the farmer-entrepreneurs still farmers? And how about those university students whose registered residence is in the countryside?"
Another problem ensuring the quality of public servants. Others are concerned that without clear guidelines in the assessment process, there may be scope for corruption.
To deal with these concerns, the province has asked local anti-graft officials to be present during the pilot.
He Tianpeng said the province is still mulling the pilot's details but one thing is for sure: public servants with real competence in grass-roots work will be selected.