The jump in the number of applicants for this year’s exam comes as the country’s youngsters are under unprecedented pressure. The on-and-off Covid-19 outbreaks have disrupted daily lives and business, albeit on a much smaller scale in China compared with many other countries. The government’s various crackdowns on sectors like education have also forced many companies to shut shop and led to mass layoffs. In October, the unemployment rate for those aged between 19 to 24 based on surveys stood at 14.2%, much higher than for those aged between 25 to 29, whose jobless rate was around 4.2% that month, according to China’s national statistics bureau.

In addition to applying for the civil services, studying further has also become a popular way for Chinese graduates to delay finding a job in the face of growing competition in the job market. The number of people who registered for the annual exam for higher education grew from 1.77 million in 2016 to 3.77 million last year, according to the education bureau.

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