China plans to recruit more civilian personnel for jobs in its People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest standing army, the Economic Times reported Thursday. Spouses and children of military personnel who died while serving, as well as spouses of current military members, will be eligible to apply. 

The changes have been implemented to improve recruitment in remote areas and for unpopular positions, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua. More positions are expected to be made available for candidates with relevant work experience. People will be able to sign up for examinations on a website, and tests will be held Nov. 22. The General Political Department of the PLA has called for a transparent recruitment process.

The announcement comes shortly after a government decision to lay off 300,000 troops by 2017. At least 170,000 officers, from lieutenants to senior colonels, are expected to be laid off after two of the existing seven military commands and three army corps are scrapped, a source told the South China Morning Post.

GettyImages-486281110 Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army march past Tiananmen Gate in Beijing during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Sept. 3, 2015. Photo: Getty Images

“The PLA's land forces will definitely be the main targets for downsizing because it has more personnel than the air force and navy combined. This is not the right path for China's defense strategies," said Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association in Beijing, the South China Morning Post reported last month. "Because of its expanding national interests overseas, China's defense strategies have shifted from 'offshore defense' to 'protecting both offshore and open seas.' "

There are 2.3 million troops serving on the ground, in the air and in the increasingly vigorous force that China has been deploying on the high seas, the Los Angeles Times reported. China has increased its military budget by over 10 percent a year for the past five years.