The annual meetings of China's top legislature and political advisory body -- a number of key issues are in the spotlight. According to surveys carried out in the media and on leading websites, the following eight issues are at the forefront of public attention: EMPLOYMENT
Despite China's economic boom, more than 84 million urban residents are on the dole. Experts say China needs to create a whopping 13 million jobs per year to prevent unemployment rising.
The government, which has taken more than 100 million people out of poverty since 1986, spent 13.4 billion yuan (1.7 billion U.S. dollars) on poverty alleviation last year. However, the employment situation in rural areas remains difficult, with rural laborers continuing to migrate to cities in search of work.
A staggering 4.95 million students will graduate from institutions of higher learning this summer, 820,000 more than last year. About 1.4 million of them --- three out of 10 --- are unlikely to find jobs when they graduate. SOCIAL SECURITY
Only a small proportion of Chinese people are covered by the country's social security system.
The vast majority of the rural poor have no social security. Only 13 million needy farmers receive government handouts, a fraction of the 800 million people living in the countryside.
Nearly 22 million urban Chinese subsist on monthly handouts of 169 yuan (22 U.S. dollars). MEDICARE
A 2006 national survey showed 49 percent of Chinese couldn't afford to see a doctor when they were ill and 30 percent refused to be hospitalized because the cost was too high.
In recent months, the public have been alarmed by media stories about privately-run hospitals cheating patients with false diagnoses and aggressively selling drugs and extra services. EDUCATION
China's nine-year compulsory education system, which is supposed to be free and to cover the whole country, does not yet reach all rural areas. In the cities, parents who want to get their kids into top schools find that they have to fork out extra money.
There is a mismatch between what is being taught in many of the country's educational institutions and newly-created job opportunities. WORKPLACE SAFETY
While work safety is improving, the situation remains grim and compares badly with other countries. China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, 70 times more dangerous than American coal mines and seven times more dangerous than coal mines in India or Russia. INCOME GAP
The income gap is widening. Statistics show that the richest ten percent of the population now own more than 40 percent of all private assets, while the poorest 10 percent have less than two percent.
The Gini Coefficient uses zero to indicate equal income distribution while one represents the largest income disparity.China's GINI Coefficient has reached 0.496, worse than the United States. LAND EXPROPRIATION
Nearly 200,000 hectares of rural land are taken from farmers every year for industrial purposes. In some regions, farmland has been given away free to attract foreign investment.
Land expropriation is the subject Chinese farmers most often complain about when they petition government officials.
More than 65 percent of rural "mass incidents" are linked to land expropriation issues. ENVIRONMENT
Environmental degradation continues to exact a heavy toll. According to the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted and more than 300 million people have no access to clean water.
In 2006, SEPA received 600,000 environmental complaints, an increase of 30 percent on the previous year.
SEPA is understaffed, underfunded and lacks power.
Even though the administration suspended 163 environmentally dangerous projects in 2006 worth a total of 770bn yuan (96bn U.S. dollars), the nation is failing to meet its goal of reducing emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010). In 2006, sulphur dioxide emissions increased by nearly 463,000 tons.