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[BEIJING] The number of science and technology (S&T) workers in China has increased by 74 per cent since 2002, but almost one-third say they would like to switch to another job such as civil servant or manager.

Women now make up 40 per cent (up from 34 per cent in 2002) of the 52 million workers in S&T, the average age of researchers has fallen marginally to 38 and the percentage of those with Masters degrees or PhDs has risen from 11 per cent in 2002 to 25 per cent.

Although 49 per cent of respondents to the 30,000 questionnaires — given to researchers, engineers, technicians affiliated to hospitals, and school science teachers — say they are satisfied with their jobs, more than half are opposed to their children becoming scientific researchers.

Zhang Xiaomei, co-author of the report by the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), attributes the dissatisfaction of a significant minority to low income, high pressure and poor career prospects.

About 32 per cent of S&T workers have a lower salary than the national average and eight per cent work more than 70 hours per week. In a similar survey conducted in ten cities in 2007, CAST found that nearly 40 per cent of respondents said it was hard to realise their full potential in the job they were then holding.

Half the respondents in this year's survey have published papers in the past three years, but about 20 per cent of respondents say that pressure to publish is a concern.

Misconduct is also an area of concern, with 55 per cent of respondents saying someone close to them at work has been guilty of misconduct, and 39 per cent acknowledge knowing "little" or "nothing" about the code of conduct they should be following.

CAST researcher Cui Jianping says frequent evaluation by supervisors adds to the pressure felt by S&T workers, especially those with high academic qualifications or rank, such as professors.

"There should be a clear career path for promotions and awards," he told SciDev.Net, with less emphasis on extraneous factors, such as the number of papers published. This would increase the loyalty of S&T workers, he says.