Officials and education experts on Thursday warned of increasing employment pressure for Chinese college and university graduates, as a slowing economy has started to affect the country's job market.
The warning comes at a time when about 9.15 million high school students are competing for 6.85 million spots in China's universities and colleges, with national college entrance exams being held from Thursday to Friday.
However, even students who are lucky enough to make it to university are not guaranteed a good job four years down the road.
"Some 6.8 million students are expected to graduate from universities and colleges this year, or about 200,000 more than a year ago," Xin Changxing, vice minister of human resources and social security, said at a forum on university graduate employment held in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei province.
Xin said the number of college and university graduates will grow at an average of 3 percent annually during the 2011-2015 period, adding 7 million job seekers with college or university diplomas to the market every year.
According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, about 25 million Chinese in urban areas currently need jobs, while the employment market creates about 12 million new jobs in urban areas every year.
The International Labor Organization sounded a similar alarm about a worldwide employment crisis due to the global economic slowdown, saying that people between the ages of 15 and 24 will be affected the most.
After adding 12.21 million new urban jobs in 2011, the Chinese government is looking to create more than 9 million new jobs in towns and cities while targeting a registered urban unemployment rate of 4.6 percent or lower this year, according to a government work report delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao at the parliament's annual session in March.
A recent survey by the ministry among the country's human resources managers showed that enterprises recruited 12.3 percent fewer college and university graduates in the first quarter of the year.
Furthermore, differences between the demands of job seekers and the jobs being offered have made Chinese college and university graduates reluctant to take some positions.
"I am not reluctant to work in grassroots communities as a teacher. They need us," said Zhang Yongjian, who graduated from a teachers' college last year. "But I see no career prospects working as a teacher at a village, a township or even a county school."
Zhang's hesitation is common among Chinese college students, highlighting the unbalanced development between China's different regions. Developed eastern and coastal cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have plenty of competition, while underdeveloped areas are in desperate need of talented graduates.
"All college and university graduates want to work in government departments or state-owned enterprises because they can get better social benefits and higher salaries," said Zheng Gongcheng, a professor specializing in labor and personnel research at Renmin University.
"What the country needs to do is narrow the income and social security gaps between industries and regions. Otherwise, it's difficult for talented people to flow freely," Zheng said.
While China's college and university graduates have had difficulty finding good jobs, a shortage of skilled vocational workers has continued to vex the country's industries.
At the end of last year, China lacked about 6.4 million skilled workers, according to data from the ministry's vocational department.
"The government should adopt measures to support the development of vocational schools," said Zhou Tianyong, a professor with the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).