China's growing band of university graduates must lower their expectations for landing prized jobs, and schools should offer more practical training to help them in a picky job market, a senior education official said on Monday.
Chinese colleges and universities have greatly expanded recruitment in recent years, as part of the government's drive to spur domestic consumption and create a more skilled workforce.
Yet many graduates are having a hard time finding jobs that justify the heavy investment made by their families. More than 6.6 million people will graduate from colleges and universities in China this year, a rise of about 300,000 over 2010.
With the numbers in higher education constantly growing, the government faces an increasing challenge to find them not only jobs, but good jobs.
"The employment of graduates is an issue that has attracted wide concern, and is one the (government) pays great attention to," Sun Xiaobing, head of Education Ministry's policy and regulations department, told a news conference.
While the government had a role to play in supporting graduates' job searches, the onus was also on the young people, Sun added.
Graduates must "dare to go to places to work where the country, society and the people have the most need" and "not only look at the big cities or the best work positions", he said.
"In recent years many graduates have gone to (work in) the countryside or the army, which has been well received by society. I hope they continue to do this and make even greater contributions to the country," Sun said.
Universities must also tailor courses to suit more vocational needs so graduates can find jobs that are needed by the economy, he added.
"Students must be able to study what is useful so that they can fulfil the development needs of society," Sun said.
Almost 91% of graduates had found work as of the end of last year, according to government figures. China's registered urban jobless rate -- the only official measure of unemployment and one that private economists say does not fully reflect the job market -- remained at 4.1% at the end of 2010.
China has more than economic reasons to fear graduate unemployment. It is also a potential political time bomb.
Pro-democracy protests bloodily suppressed by the army in 1989 were led by radicalised students.
The government has worried that unsettling discontent could spread again as more and more graduates, whose families have paid steeply for their education, look for work.
Sun said he was confident the government would be able to tackle the issue of graduate employment.
"The situation is getting better and better every year," he said.