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Amid a prolonged recession, only one in 13.1 test-takers passed local government exams to become civil servants in April 1999 — the lowest success rate on record, a Home Affairs Ministry report said Monday. According to the report, the ratio of applicants for local government screening tests to those who pass has been about 10-to-1 for five straight years, reflecting the growing popularity of the public sector during a period when job offers in the private sector are shrinking as a result of the economic slowdown. The report shows that 45,636 people were offered positions by local governments out of 596,216 applicants. The number of applicants increased by 32,760, or 5.8 percent, from the previous year, while the number of positions offered dropped by 2,895, or 6 percent, resulting in stiffer competition, the report said. Among all local governments, prefectural governments saw the fiercest competition at 17.4 applicants to 1 position offered, followed by municipal governments — including Tokyo’s 23 ward offices — at 12.4-to-1. The competition rate at town and village offices was 6.7-to-1. Reflecting the increasing difficulty university graduates face in finding a private- sector job, the percentage of university graduates passing exams for municipal government jobs intended for high-school graduates rose to 48.6 percent from 44.3 percent the previous year. Women made up for a record 43.4 percent of all successful exam takers, the report said.

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