Work-life balance is key to recruiting young cadres in China

Published (HKT): 2021.05.04 05:55

The army of young cadres who are increasingly seen taking key positions in community-level mainland China bodies must run an extra mile to overcome skepticism from residents that they’re up to the task. At the same time, they’re crying out for more support and a better work-life balance, according to local media.

There has been a big increase in the number of people born in the 1990s taking up roles as Communist Party Secretary in village organizations. A recent change of Party organization in a zone around Shanghai that houses 4,000 residential areas saw 51 “post-90” new bloods taking up the secretary role. A similar trend was also observed among the 1,000 administrative villages, with more people in this age group taking up the secretary position of the local branches of the Communist Party.

These village positions were previously taken up by “dama” — a Chinese term roughly equivalent to “auntie.”

However, the young cadres have yet to receive a warm welcome from local residents, who have little faith in these newcomers.

One such young community cadre is Yu Haoquan, a 28-year-old secretary of Tongji Huxi residential district. Since he took up the secretary job at the end of last year, Yu has faced criticism from local residents, from the way he dresses to his ability.

“I only wear a simple denim shirt and put on a little hair wax,” said Yu, who was criticized for not dressing like a secretary. “How do I not look like a secretary?”

Yu said that the close bonds between the older villagers and secretaries of a similar age had disappeared after his predecessors retired. “Maybe old villagers felt that there is a generation gap between us. They don’t come to me even if they have problems at home,” Yu said.

The young secretary said he remembered the advice of his predecessor, who encouraged him to be sincere and kind to villagers. When Shanghai was hit by a cold snap last winter, Yu went to check up on older villagers to find out if they had enough water, electricity and coal. When one elderly villager who lived by himself did not answer the door, a worried Yu used a ladder to climb up to the second floor of the house only to discover that the villager was fine.

Although the incident caused a little uproar in the village, Yu said it also proved that he was a responsible secretary.

Still, young cadres often hold a different set of values than their predecessors.

“I can work extra hours, but you cannot stop me from taking a nap. I can answer calls from villagers around the clock, but if it isn’t anything urgent, I would like to leave it until the following day,” Yu said. “I admire my predecessor and I hope to be a great secretary, but I cannot perform better than she did.”

Shanghai last year recruited about 1,000 community cadres from high-school graduates but many left the job after just a short while, according to mainland media.

In order to retain young talent, local party organizations should meet the material and mental needs of the young generation, the report said. Digitization that can help to alleviate cadres’ tedious daily administration work should also be enhanced so that young people can focus on innovative work. Remuneration to cadres at the grassroots level should also be improved, the report said.

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