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Gender inequality and discrimination against women in employment aggravate in China

Europe China relations

The inequality in wages being paid to men and women in China has continued to aggravate though Chinese women have the highest women participation in Asia. The pay gap has widened by nearly 30 percent, according to a recent study carried out at Beijing-based Peking University. The breakneck economic development in the past two decades improved living standards in China but it failed to serve the benefits between men and women equally.

The plight of Chinese women worsened during the Coronavirus pandemic as the disparity between men and women increased by more than double in terms of hours worked and widened by nearly 30 percent in terms of pay. “The gender gap in the labour market is still widening after the pandemic has ended, and the plight of working mothers is unlikely to be fundamentally improved in the short term,” reads the study report.

Women professionals in China were paid lesser amounts than their male counterparts, according to a survey carried out by job-recruitment platform Zhaopin.The earning gap has been 13 percent for a few years. China’s patriarchal system is often blamed for the discriminatory treatment of women. Even Chinese president Xi Jinping sought to restrict the economic growth of women by asking them to stay home and make children to address the demographic problem.

Working women with young children were the worst hit during Covid pandemic as they encountered 181 percent higher unemployment risk while earning 36.8 percent less per month. “During this special period, working mothers have taken on more family responsibilities, suffered greater employment impacts and experienced more severe psychological trauma,” reads the Peking University report.

The discrimination has led to a decrease in the number of Chinese women in the economic activities. Female labour force participation declined from 61.4 percent in 2019 to 60.5 percent in 2023. It was around 80 percent in 1980s. China ranked 63rd in the Global Gap Index in 2006 but it slumped to 107th position in 2023.

Chinese women are expected to be more responsible for paid jobs though there is not enough support for job security, according to a research report on ‘Attitude toward gender inequality in China’. “Although the proportion of Chinese women in the professional and technical fields is classed in the first place, it is found that under the same qualification, it is more challenging for women to earn higher positions because of gender bias,” reads the report, which was led by Qianqian Wang of Henan University.

China faces great gender pay inequality thanks to patriarchy and the communist party government’s failed efforts, concluded a group of local researchers from China’s Chengdu and Shenzhen. “There still exists a significant gender pay gap for women and men who have similar human capital, and a sizable part of the gap can be explained by women’s marital status: married women have to face more discrimination in the labour market than unmarried women,” they said in their report.

Discrimination over gender and marital status continues to be the biggest obstacle for female professionals. Another survey carried out by Zhaopin showed about 61.1 percent of women workers were asked about their marital status while it was just 21.5 percent for males. About 23 percent of women said they lost job opportunities because they were seen as potential brides or mothers.

A women professional named Zhang said she was asked unconformable and offensive questions about having a boyfriend or getting married. “My company has unwritten rules that newly recruited female workers should make a promise of not having a child in five years, or they won’t be promoted. It’s not fair for us women, but we have no other choice,” she said.

On several occasions, Chinese companies as well as government departments were seen openly rejecting women employments. Human Rights Watch said women in China have little scope to seek justice against employment and remuneration discrimination. “The Chinese government’s stringent media censorship and hostility toward grassroots activism pose a significant obstacle to Chinese women’s rights activists and civil society groups seeking to raise public awareness about the issue,” it said.