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The government’s unified examinations for hiring midcareer workers as national public servants in fiscal 2021 started Sunday in nine cities across the country.

It is the first such tests to be conducted as part of the government’s efforts to support members of the so-called “ice age” generation, people mainly in their 30s and 40s who struggled to land jobs after Japan’s economic bubble collapsed in the early 1990s.

A total of 157 positions at central government offices are available and 5,634 applicants took the exams, according to the National Personnel Authority. The competition rate was 35.9 to one.

Written exams, including a knowledge test and essay writing, were given Sunday at 18 locations in Tokyo, Osaka and seven other cities. Those who pass the exam will be announced on Dec. 25 and will move on to interviews to be conducted by each government agency between Jan. 25 and Feb. 5 next year. Those who pass the final stage will be announced on Feb. 25.

Of the 157 new positions, 30 are clerical positions at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and 17 are technical positions at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Those born between April 2, 1966, and April 1, 1986, were eligible to apply regardless of their job or academic records.

A 38-year-old nonregular worker who took the tests in Tokyo said, “I knew that the exams would be highly competitive, but I decided to take on the challenge because a civil service job is a steady job.”

To support the generation, the government has indicated a plan to intensively work on hiring midcareer workers as national public servants from fiscal 2020 to 2022. It will conduct similar unified exams in fiscal 2021.

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