More than 775,000 applicants sat examinations for civil service jobs yesterday, state media reported, even though only 1.75 per cent have any hope of being recruited next year. This recruitment rate makes the civil service test the mainland's hardest exam, according to Xinhua. A total of 530,000 people took the exam in 2006 and 640,000 last year, but only 13,500 jobs were offered this year. Experts said the jump in applicants did not necessarily mean interest in a civil service career was genuinely growing. An increasingly difficult job market, especially with this year's economic downturn, was the main spur, they said. 'Although the pay for a civil servant is not particularly good, the job is very secure,' said Wang Yukai , a public-policy expert at the National School of Administration. 'And this may account for some of the growth in applicants. 'But most are just taking the exam to try their luck. They do not expect to get a job but still they don't want to miss an opportunity.' It has been estimated there will be 6 million fresh graduates joining the job market next year, 500,000 more than this year. With layoffs expected at many manufacturing and export industries, and a hiring freeze at multinational companies, more are applying for jobs they previously would not have considered, including the civil service. To attract the best candidates, civil service hiring requirements have been relaxed in recent years, with no specific conditions on gender, height, weight, appearance, marital status or educational background. Nonetheless the attractions of a stable civil service job dim in comparison with more lucrative jobs in the private sector. 'The civil service has not been the most popular choice among students and 1.75 per cent is small compared with several thousand applying for one job with a multinational company,' said education professor Xiong Bingqi of Shanghai Jiaotong University. 'Applications for almost all decent jobs have soared, not only for the civil service. The employment environment is just too difficult.' Professor Xiong said mainland graduates were concentrated in several geographical areas and set their sights on certain jobs, resulting in severe competition for almost every job seeker. The ratio for people applying for positions in the telecommunications bureau was 4,407:1 last year, and 1,200:1 for the General Office secretariat. Only one person applied for a public security bureau job by the fourth day of the application period and no one applied for departments such as geology or meteorology. Between 2003 and 2006, 330,000 civil servants were recruited. Of those working for the central government, 99 per cent had a bachelor's degree, 53 per cent had a master's degree, and 4.3 per cent had a doctorate.