China's employment market could come under greater pressure this year as the country faces a record number of college graduates and is expecting economic growth to hit a 25-year low, a government minister said on Tuesday.
Urban employment fell by a large margin year-on-year in January and February, Yin Weimin, minister of human resources and social security, said at a news briefing on the sidelines of the ongoing National People's Congress annual session.
About 15 million young people are expected to enter the labor market this year, including an estimated record number of 7.49 million college graduates.
"The large numbers in the new workforce will pose immense pressure (on the labor market) and there is also an acute structural imbalance," Yin said.
In his annual Government Work Report to lawmakers at the opening of their annual plenary session on Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang pledged that another 10 million jobs will be created this year.
A lower growth target of "about 7 percent" was also announced. The economy expanded by 7.4 percent last year, the lowest pace since 1990.
Yin said he is confident that 10 million new jobs can be created this year, as authorities will continue to push forward policies to ensure employment for college graduates and to encourage new ventures.
Chen Yu, vice-president of the China Association for Employment Promotion, said the key to ensuring that a large number of new jobs are created still lies in economic growth, especially innovation and creativity in the economy and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.
"These enterprises play a vital role in ensuring employment growth, as they take up a major share of the labor market," he said.
Chen said economic growth of 7 percent is still adequate to ensure the creation of 10 million jobs.
Yin also said the central government will announce a plan in 2017 to increase the retirement age gradually, as the country's pension fund faces "tremendous challenges" to break even.
Drafting of the new retirement program will be completed by the end of this year and details will be released next year for public opinion to be sought, he said.
Yin said the new retirement age will be implemented five years after the plan is adopted, to give people sufficient time to prepare.
For now, the pension fund can still support those who have retired, but he warned that challenges could be looming.
The dependency ratio — the ratio of those not in the labor force to those typically in work, is expected to change from the current 3.04-to-1 (3.04 workers supporting one retiree) to 1.3-to-1 in 2050, Yin said.