Provinces relax age limits for civil service

40-year-olds now eligible to sit exams in bid to relieve employment anxiety

Hopefuls wait for the beginning of the civil service exam in Hefei, East China's Anhui province, on Jan 8, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Some provinces and regions in China have relaxed age restrictions for candidates registering for civil servant examinations, sending a positive signal to middle-aged people who may be experiencing employment anxiety.

Over the weekend, 27 provinces and regions — out of the 30 that recently started their civil servant recruitment campaigns — organized written examinations. Among these provinces, 10 of them, including Henan and Hubei, as well as Tianjin municipality, raised age restrictions for candidates to 40 years old, up from 35.

It’s important for them (people aged above 35) to enhance their learning ability to find the right life, rather than going with the flow.

Guo Sheng, CEO of recruitment portal Zhaopin

Henan clarified in a recruitment notice that those born after January 1982 and holding a master's or doctoral degree can apply for civil servant positions, except for some vacancies that have strict age limits. Previously, these vacancies were only open to candidates under 35 years old.

The Inner Mongolia autonomous region raised its age limit from 35 years old to 40 for some grassroots positions in remote areas.

The Henan Civil Service Bureau said that the relaxation was due to changing requirements for certain positions, while it's not sure if the bureau will keep relaxing age limits in the future.

A State-level regulation for civil servant recruitment released in 2007 said that candidates should be between 18 and 35 years of age.

"The age relaxation shows the nation's resolve to promote employment," Zhu Lijia, an associate professor at the National Academy of Governance, said in an interview with the news outlet Shanghai Observer.

He said that the age limit caused many companies to follow suit, while relaxing it can help promote a fairer job market and avoid prejudice against middle-aged job seekers.

In the past few years, prejudice against employees in their late 30s has attracted attention both from the government and the public.

Jiang Shengnan, a deputy to the National People's Congress and a researcher at Wenzhou University in Zhejiang province, proposed last year removing the age limit for civil service applicants.

She said in her proposal that the limit delivers a negative signal to society that once people reach 35 they may lose the chance of fair job competition.

She added that people may have a difficult time at around 35 years old if they have children to raise and older parents to support. It's neither scientific nor fair to exclude these people in recruitment, and it is a huge waste of human resources.

Guo Sheng, CEO of recruitment portal Zhaopin, said: "People aged between 35 and 45 years old are vulnerable and have the lowest capability of bearing risks. They usually have children in education and elderly relatives to support, as well as economic pressure from housing loans. Also, people at these ages have weaker learning ability while the quickly developing industry requires them to learn fast."

He added, however, that people over 35 have advantages such as rich working experiences and intense energy. "It's important for them to enhance their learning ability to find the right life, rather than going with the flow."

The report delivered to the 20th CPC National Congress in October clarified that it's necessary to eliminate the shortcomings of systems and policies hampering the mobility of labor forces and talent, and to remove improper restrictions and prejudices influencing fair employment.