China Oil Workers Trade In Marriage For a Job

August 17, 2005 Updated: August 17, 2005

BEIJING – Former employees of a state-run oilfield in north China are jumping through a strange hoop to get their jobs back — they are filing for divorce.

China&#039s state-run giants, once the heart of the planned economy, have cast off millions of employees since the launch of market reforms two decades ago.

But the Huabei Oilfield Co., based in Renqiu, Hebei province, on Friday issued a new policy saying divorced laid-off employees could return to work, the Chinese news Web site said on Wednesday, citing an article by the local Yanzhao Metropolitan News.

“Following these rules, laid-off employees just have to have a divorce certificate and they are qualified for re-employment,” former oilfield worker Wang Ying was quoted as saying.

“To qualify to get my job back, I had to divorce my husband of 10 years, even though we have a wonderful relationship.”

Divorce is on the rise in China but still unusual outside big cities. State media reported 1.6 million couples from the country of 1.3 billion people divorced in 2004.

But among Huabei employees, untying the knot had become so common that people had replaced the standard greeting of “Have you eaten?” with “Are you divorced yet?”, the report said.

Around 20 couples connected to the oilfield, a subsidiary of CNPC, China&#039s largest oil and gas producer, had formally split on Monday alone, an official from the local marriage registration bureau was quoted as saying. The report did not explain the oilfield&#039s motives for the pro-divorce policy and company management was not immediately available for comment.

“This policy is just in trial stages,” an oilfield manager told the newspaper. “I can&#039t say anything about it.”