Gender discrimination in employment: China

Gender discrimination in employment: China

Executive summary
Gender discrimination in employment in Chinese labour market is a widespread issue particularly when it comes to women. Women are the ones who receive high level of gender discrimination at the work places. In survey carried out by Yongping (2004), it established that 25% of all job applications from women are declined sorely because of their gender. Though, China has enacted labour laws that prohibit gender discrimination and create equal employment opportunities, no particular laws have been enacted to control selection and hiring process.
The present dissertation sought to investigate gender discrimination in employment in China. from the research carried out, this paper has established that there are several reasons why employers discriminate against women, they include perceived lack of energy of women, employers belief that women are less commitment to work and are less qualified. The research has concluded that women suffer gender discrimination more than men in China. This has been contributed by deep-seated social biases against women’s participation in paid work, together with weak institutions that have failed to effectively implement China’s labour laws. Accordingly the following recommendations have been suggested establishing and strengthening labour laws and policies, improve the supervision and control of labour industry, consideration of gender discrimination when formulating policies, and form special organizations to appraise and oversee gender equality laws and policies.

Since the time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949, it treated gender equality as a critical issue in modernizing China (Berik et al 2007). Accordingly, the party introduced laws to create equal opportunities based on the premise that women and men are both equal in terms of getting paid work. CCP as well outlined that women’s should be freed from feudalism and patriarchy. Berik et al (2007) cites the 1994 labour law, that underlines that “women and men shall enjoy equal rights in relation to employment; women may not be refused employment because of their sex” (Nolan 2008, p.2). The law adds that equal pay should be offered for equal work. Nonetheless, the government has failed to fully enforce the gender equality law, raising doubts about the political will of leaders.
From 1978 when economic reforms were carried out in China, women have faced increased discrimination on the labour market (Berik et al., 2007). Rapid changes in the social and economic front, for example rearrangement of agricultural practices, increased rural-urban migration and removal of work-based welfare system has all considerable changed the lives of women. Usually, women are first ones to loss their work and majority are forced to take employment in risk places, unregulated industries or sit back home.
The Chinese government in 1980s and 1990s passed a several laws in its effort to establish and safeguard the rights of its people (Berik et al., 2007). In regard to addressing gender discrimination in employment, the constitution passed by PRC (People’s Republic of China) in 1993 contained a number of laws such as the Women Workers and Employment Labour Protection Regulations, the labour law and the law for the protection of women’s rights and interests (LPWRI), “all were contained in the constitution to provides the basis for challenging discriminatory practices of employers” (Bulger 2000, p 5).
Though, the constitution as well as national law guarantees equal rights for men and women, the government and regulatory bodies have failed to effectively implement these labour policies. Accordingly, it has proved difficult to secure equal employment treatment particularly among women. Clarke (2007) points out that Chinese law put a lot of emphasis on protective laws underpinned on biological differences existing among men and women. Laws offer advantages required. Consequently, whereas positive laws underline that men and women are equal, the actual social practices illustrates the continued practices of gender inequality practices in Chinese society (Bulger, 2000).
Clarke (2007) explains that it is difficult to successfully challenge discriminatory practices because of varying reasons. For example, the range of some of these laws is very limited, and there is no enforcement of these national laws at the local level. In addition, work unit state owned enterprises (SOEs) and local government laws usually conflict, rising debate on which law ought to be applied. The present system of the government as well poses difficulties, since court rulings may not be enforced because courts are on the same level as local governments.
This short dissertation examines this issue of gender discrimination in employment. After giving background information, the next section will outline the aims and objectives of the research, research question and the methodology adopted. The next section will be literature review, which will critically review the issue. Lastly, a conclusion and recommendation will be offered based on the findings of the literature review.
1.2 Aim & objectives of the research
The main aim and objective of this short research is to examine gender discrimination in employment in China. Other objectives included:
i. Establishing the main barriers that contributes to gender discrimination in China
ii. Establish the main cause of gender discrimination in employment in China
1.3 Research questions
• What are the main barriers that hinder women from advancing in their employment and create gender discrimination in employment?
• What are the causes of gender discrimination in employment in Chinese labour sector?

2.0 Chapter 2: Methodology
The following chapter will describe the selected methodology to be applied in the current research. In the first chapter, we gave the background of the issue and investigation and the research questions of our present issue “gender discrimination in employment in China”. After identifying the research topic and literature review, planning a methodology for the study topic is necessary. As pointed out by Cassell and Symon, (2004) there are two main research methods, primary research and secondary research. The selection of any of these two methods depends on several factors, such as variables under study, the nature of the study, time, and even costs involved.
2.1 Secondary research methodology: literature review
Selecting appropriate research methodology a critical aspect in the research processes. Accordingly this present research will use secondary research methodology, specifically literature review. According to Cassell and Symon, (2004) literature review is an organised search of past works to establish what has been already found out about the topic under examination. When using literature review, information is mined from books, periodicals, internet sources; corporate catalogues and so forth (Weiss & Bucuvala, 1980). Published books are critical because they substantiate what study has been conducted. To enhance prospects of accessing the most significant prose, visiting various libraries is ideal.
There are several advantages of using literature review as a research method. As noted by Weiss & Bucuvala (1980) literature review helps the scholar to fix the study problem and better comprehend and substantiates the study anomaly. Additionally, data can be collected without necessarily depending on other people as such the information could be accurate. Lastly, secondary research is less costly and present wide breadth and vast information of the research topic.
a literature review is used to serve a number of objectives, including determining the need to carry out the research, widening the scope of the researcher and stopping the researcher from carrying out a research that as been already done (Weiss & Bucuvala, 1980). These observations are supported by Cassell and Symon, (2004) who points out that literature review enables the researcher to establish what has been already established regarding the problem being examined, this helps in preventing duplication of the research. Bless (2000) outlines that literature review polish and expand the theoretical background of the research. He adds that, literature review allows the research to be familiar with the current happenings in the subject of research (Cassell and Symon, (2004).
2.2 Sampling
As stated before, the present research will base on literature review because it is easy to gather information from previous studies. The majority of materials used in this research were obtained from online or from online databases. The researcher as well used scholarly articles, peer reviewed journals, books and websites. The overriding aspect in all these materials was that they discussed on the topic under present investigation.
2.3 Data analysis
This research study is literature review-based. Accordingly, previous studies on the topic have will be critically examined through the study. Data analysis will entail reviewing the findings of the previous studies and presenting them in a narrative way that answers the main research question under investigation, “Gender discrimination in employment-China”.
3.0 Chapter 3: Literature Review
3.1 Definition of discrimination
According to Webster (2010) employment discrimination is a complex aspect that entail conscious decisions as well as unconscious opinions about an individual based on his/her abilities and qualities because of his race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation or any other immutable attributes. Employment discrimination can be direct or indirect, direct discrimination is where an employer shows favouritism towards other employees against others based on one or several aspects (noted before). However, indirect discrimination is more complex and hard to notices since it entails policies that seem to be neutral yet have negative effects on minority groups (Webster, 2010).
3.2 Gender discrimination
The following section will examine the main barriers that hinder women from advancing in their employment. As noted by Cooke (2005) gender discrimination is indirectly and directly practiced in government policies as well as employer practices in regard to Job advertisements, recruitment practices, career promotion and advancement and retirement regulations.
3.2.1 Job advertisements
Critical evaluation of job advertisement offers crucial understanding into discriminatory practices of employers. a study by Gao (2008) on online recruitment and that done by Zhou Wei on print advertisement reveal that gender, age and physical attributes remain important aspects for employers Wei (2008). Additional aspects such as height and household registration also come under consideration by employers particularly in more specialised positions. Most job adverts have several forms of discriminatory aspects, for example seeking women aged below 30 years, or men with a height of over 5’6, therefore this attributes reflects discrimination.
Gao (2008) carried out a survey of 955 white-collar jobs adverts placed on ChinaHR.com, one of the top employment website (Gao, 2008). In her survey, she established that the widespread discriminatory attribute was age, appearing in 24% of the adverts, gender came second at 12%, and physical appearance came as third at 10%. On further analysis, she established that gender requirement affected both men and women, (men at 5.5% and women at 6.7%) (Gao, 2008). The high percentage among men was attributed to managerial positions, whereas for women was in sales and clerical positions. This kind of adverts underlines the traditional power system where women are viewed as subordinate to men. In addition, many advertisements for women had some more restrictions, where age was general less than 30 years, and physically, women had to be “attractive and well-tempered”. Gao (2008) asserts that this multiple restrictions indicate a more “degrading direction of gender discrimination”, implying that Chinese women are being seen as sex objects, with the purpose of pleasing the eyes of male managers and customers.
3.2.2 Recruitment practices
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Chinese labour laws required that SOEs recruit a certain quotas of female graduates. However, some like Granik (1991) argue that these laws were not followed even by government bodies. When these laws were removed in mid 1990s, gender discrimination in recruitment increased. A survey carried out in 2004 by Shanghai Women’s Federation reported that 55.6% of female graduates faced discrimination when they sought employment (Nolan, 2008). The interesting aspect was how employers locked out women indirectly, for example, one job advert required applicants to have soccer skills (China Daily, 2004). In a related survey carried out by All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) (2006) in Jiansu, revealed that 80% of female respondents indicated that they been discriminated through recruitment process. Some participants in the survey stated that some job adverts directly stated their preference. Indeed, even some government agencies and foreign multinational showed a preference for men.
In cases where these women were employed, some employers provided illegal employment contracts, for example, with a clause of “no giving birth for four years” (Chao, 2003). according to Ebrahimi et al (2002), some reasons why employers discriminate against women during recruitment is perceived losses due to maternity leave and reduced motivation when women get children.
However, in some industries like manufacturing, those discriminated against are men and not women. Men born in 1980s are viewed as spoilt and unproductive, thus some employers shun them (Nolan, 2008).
3.2.3 Promotion
It is hard to correctly establish the number of women in managerial positions in various sectors in Chinese labour market (Nolan, 2008). Some authors such as Korabik (1994) have argued that the reason why fewer women are promoted to managerial positions is due to gender bias and negative feelings towards women. Accordingly, Korabik (1994); Chow (1995) explains that these kinds of perceptions negatively impacts women’s self-esteem and reduces their drive to take u management positions. In addition, Chow (1995) points out that organisations seem to prefer “masculine” attributes in managers for example, ambitious, forcefulness and aggressiveness, attributes that not attractive to traditional Chinese women.
However, a study carried out by Ebrahimi et al (2001) on Chinese managers found only slight gender difference in participants’ drive to hold managerial positions or personality attributes such as forcefulness and competitiveness. Consequently, Ebrahimi et al (2001) assert that the under-proportional number of women holding managerial positions is not caused by personality attributes of women, other factors contribute to this aspect and there is need to examine organisational and government practices.
3.2.4 Retirement
In China, the retirement age for women and men differs, while professional women working in urban centres are supposed to retire at 55 and those working in other position to retire at 50, men are supposed to retire at 60 and 55 respectively (Nolan, 2008). Though the ministry of labour has tried to address this issue by releasing policy paper to adjust the retirement age of women to 60, the final decision is left to the employer (Lou, 2000).
A clear outcome of this difference in retirement age is fewer women get to managerial positions, simply because the duration of their careers is shorter compared to that of men. Cooke (2005) explains that, due to this “short career path” of women, employers are less ken on training and promoting women to management position since they offer “less returns” than men (in relation to labour period they work). Therefore, the early retirement age of women reduces their career advancement opportunities (Cooke, 2005).
Based on the fact that pension payments depends on the final salaries and duration of service an employee offers, this law as well reduce the pension women earn. In addition, it has been observed that employers usually layoff women than men because women are paid less money in terms of redundancy allowances (Cooke, 2005). Lou (2000) observes that the retirement law contradicts the rights of women enshrined in the constitution of equal access to employment and pay. In deed, Nolan (2008) narrates that, Ms Zhou Xianghua who was employed by China construction Bank in 2005 was the first women to seek court redress over the legality of retirement age. Though Ms Zhou lost this case, it elicited a heated debated in Chinese labour industry. In line of this legal case, the Beijing University Women’s Legal Research and Services Centre official petitioned the national parliament to review the retirement law (Nolan, 2008). Still, as underscored by Liu (2007) the difference in gender retirement age, is a big disadvantage to women regarding their career advancement and pension compensation.
3.3 Causes of gender discrimination in employment
The causes of gender discrimination, particularly for women in Chinese labour market are possibly same as those faced by other women in different parts of the world. They include financial costs related with maternity leave, lack of access in education and social networking and mentoring. In addition, China’s law enforcement system is comparatively weak (Nolan, 2008). This section will examine the above mentioned causes and how they relate to gender discrimination in employment
3.3.1 Financial costs related with maternity leave
Razavi (2007) points out that, when state owned enterprises (SOEs) were reformed, it resulted in their usual role of providers of social welfare to be changed and given to employee, the government and insurance companies. Though this reduces to the burden of organisations, SOEs are still needed to contribute towards the welfare of the employee. Nolan (2008) note that, the young women employed by organisation will require maternity support at one point. Accordingly, some sectors are discouraged by this aspect; therefore they discourage employment of women (McLaren, 2004). Nonetheless, to address this issue employment contract was introduced in 1980s, where employers could hire women and give them short contract terms so that they avoid paying maternity costs. But as asserted by Cooke (2005), this means women employed on such terms will not have a continuous working career, which in turn contributes to lack of professional work experience by women.
3.3.2 Lack of access in education
The difference in access of educational opportunities among most Chinese women as well negatively affects the human capital experience of women (Granrose, 2005). There is a common social belief among the Chinese that education is more essential for men compared to women, a belief that remains deeply practised in rural regions. For instance, data from China Statistics Yearbook revealed that in 2006, the percentage of illiterate among women was 13.7%, while that of men was 4% (China Statistics Yearbook, 2006). These figures are more skewed in rural regions where the percentage men in colleges and higher learning institutions are double that of women. Though, this trend is slowly changing due to one child policy adopted by China.
In addition, differences also occur in subjects that men and women study in the university. According to Cooke (2005), a high proportion of men study science subjects. This has a long term effect on careers of graduates since those who study sciences are more likely to get high paying jobs than those who study arts subjects. Liu et al (2006) found interesting that whereas that percentage women and men studying science subjects has always differed, the gap widen in the course of China’s reform period when the numbers of women studying sciences sharply reduced. for instance, in 1970s, the ratio of female students taking physics subjects in China’s top universities was 1 to 3, but in 2001, this ratio had dropped to 1 to 10 (Science, 2002).
Some of the reasons noted for comparatively high numbers of female students taking sciences subjects in 1970s are, the old educational system where bright students were mandated to take physics course even in cases where they did not apply form them, stronger aggressiveness in women in 1970s, and government provision of childcare allowing many women to pursue science courses (Science, 2002). the high decrease in female taking science courses has been occasioned by less support given by the government to women undertaking science courses and the media which portray female scientists as cold and unattractive (Science, 2002). This discourages many young women to venture in science courses.
3.3.3 Social networking and mentoring
A lot of literature has revealed that women in many developed countries lack enough informal mentoring provided through social networks (Cooke, 2005). A major fact contributing to this is that many women are do not participate in “after-work” activities because of the ways these activities are structured, which on many occasions happen in groups with large proportion of men (Cooke, 2005). Similar problems face Chinese women, especially in starting and maintaining a guanxi (relationship).
To get promotional or career advancement, individuals usually go to their groups (guanxi) to get assistance and information (Fox and Schuhmann, 2001). In China, it is harder for women to relate with men (who they are not related to) in a guanxi since this can be viewed as seeking sexual relationship, which will be disastrous to both the woman and the man. This discourages men to mentor men or vice versa.
A study carried out by Wylie (2004) on women in management positions in Beijing and Shanghai established that majority of women claimed that they had to allow some flattery to establish a network with their male counterparts. This made these women to feel uneasy and insincere. Accordingly, Wylie (2004) recommends the use of new technologies to offer new ways of social networking that women can use. Wylie (2004) believes that this will help in social networking by creating better mutual and respectively relationships that can foster mentoring.
3.3.4 Weak law enforcement and unfairness in existing laws
Though the new “Employment Law” that was enacted on 1st January, 2008, is strict on using temporary employment contracts, there is debate on how effectively the law will be enforced. In the previous SOEs, it was easy to enforce these regulations since many organisations were state owned and easily followed these regulations. However, times have changed and the government has privatised many companies becoming profit making oriented. This has created a gap between laws and practices (Clarke, 2007). Things are worsened by the fact that China has inadequate legal professional, a partial judiciary system and a court system that needs support (Clarke, 2007). This explains why law enforcement has remained weak.
More so, the kind punishment given to employers who flout these laws does not help to change their behaviours since they are merely warned or fined a small penalty. Granrose, (2005) notes that few employees and employers are aware of these labour laws, this means that employers lack skills to deals with legal disagreements and employees are not aware of their rights (Cooke, 2005). Cooke (2005) concludes on this by stating that China’s legislation is a joke in addressing gender equality in employment.
4.0 Findings from the literature review
From the literature review carried out, the following findings can be reached; gender discrimination in employment is a complex issue, there is direct and indirect gender discrimination (Webster, 2010). It is easy to notice direct discrimination because it entails an employer favouring certain employee/s. but, it is more difficult to notice indirect discrimination because it entails use of policies that may appear not to promote discrimination yet they do exactly that particularly concerning minority groups and the marginalised.
The literature review has also confirmed that indeed, there is gender discrimination in employment in China. Looking on how gender discrimination is carried out, the paper through literature review has established several ways in which gender discrimination occurs. The main ways gender discrimination is perpetuated is through; recruitment practices, career promotion and advancement and retirement regulations.
• Job advertisements: Most job adverts have several forms of discriminatory aspects, for example seeking women aged below 30 years, or men with a height of over 5’6. This is a clear way of locking out potential employees on based on gender, age and height.
• Recruitment practices: In the 1980s and early 1990s, Chinese labour laws are to promote women employment are not followed even by government bodies, and the removal of these laws in mid 1990s, increase cases of gender discrimination in recruitment.
• Promotion: the reason why fewer women are promoted to managerial positions is due to gender bias and negative feelings towards women. some employers feel that women can not perform to the required level in their management position simply because of their gender.
• Retirement: In China, women retirement age are lower than that of men. For example professional women working in urban centres are supposed to retire at 55 and those working in other position to retire at 50, men are supposed to retire at 60 and 55 respectively (Cooke, 2005). Since women retire earlier than men, few reach managerial positions, simply because the duration of their careers is shorter compared to that of men.
Similarly causes of gender discrimination, particularly among the Chinese women as established from the literature review include, financial costs related with maternity leave, lack of access in education and social networking and mentoring and China’s weak law enforcement system.
Many Chinese companies discriminate against women when recruiting because they do not want to incur costs in terms of lost hours or financial compensation when related to maternity leave. This sort of discrimination is not just limited to the private sectors, but it also exists in government organisations. Though, employment contract was introduced in 1080s to resolve this issue, many companies have continued to flout this by including discriminatory clauses in their contracts.
Lack of education, there is a common social belief among the Chinese that education is more essential for men compared to women, a belief that remains deeply practised in rural regions and which denies many women opportunity to advance their education, thus limiting their employment chances. More so, as indicated by Science, 2002), the number of women who study science subjects, which are high paying when employed, has steadily reduced. The increasing gap has been attributed to changes that has occurred both on political and educational front. The media also has played a role in creating this gap by portraying women in science field as being unattractive, an attribute that discourages some young women to study sciences in university.
Literature review has also revealed that women in China lack enough informal mentoring provided through social networks. In China, relationships (guanxi) are very important both in career advancement and social front. As noted by Fox and Schuhmann (2001) to easily get promotion at your place work, the guanxi (group) has to assist a person through information of kind remarks. however, it more difficult for Chinese woman to create relationships with men, since the woman may be mistaken as seeking sexual relationships, which will damage the career not only the woman, but also the man. Accordingly, both women and men fear seeking mentors, since their intentions may be misjudged. This has disadvantaged women more than men.
Lastly, China has insufficient legal professionals, a partial judiciary system and a weak court system (Clarke, 2007). Whereas China has passed “employment law” that forbid use of temporary employment, which promotes gender discrimination, among other laws that seeks to create equality, enforcing these laws has been a major problem. As noted by Clarke (2007) the problem of enforcement has been compounded by the fact that many state organisations have been privatised and private organisations are hard to monitor. More so, private company places profits first before issues of gender discrimination. The number of legal officers employed by the government to deal with issues of gender discrimination is small and the china’s judiciary system is weak, these two aspects have not helped the matter. Where offenders are brought to court, there are given a less punishment that does not discourage them from stopping gender discrimination at their organisations. In general, China has a weak law enforcement that has failed to punish employers who discriminate employees on gender basis.

5.0 Conclusion and recommendations
4.1 Conclusion
What is the conclusion that can be drawn the above review that has been presented? On the positive side, employment opportunities for women are increasing in some sectors of manufacturing industry, and a number of these jobs come with comparatively high salaries. On a more negative side, for a large proportion of women, condition at their workplaces remain bad and the laws enacted are not effectively enforced.
Certainly, there has been an effort to create gender equality, particularly when the CCP came to power in 1949. However, patriarchal values and Confucius teachings that are deeply rooted in the Chinese society, and perpetuated even by state media have promoted inequality (Razavi, 2007). As pointed out in this research, China’s labour regarding gender discrimination remain rhetorical, and real change sought by these labour laws, is hindered by poorly function justice system, lack of enough legal experts, and doubtable political will.
A number of these patterns currently being witnessed may be attributed to the fact that China is an emerging economy, and cases of gender discrimination in employment increases during reform period, specifically concerning older women, and those less educated. In addition, an observation that can be made is that service industry jobs mainly require youth and attractiveness.
However, as established from the literature review gender discrimination exists in employment in China. The research has established ways in which this gender discrimination is practised, these recruitment practices, career promotion and advancement and retirement regulations. The main causes of gender discrimination from the review are, financial costs related with maternity leave, lack of access in education and social networking and mentoring and China’s weak law enforcement system. To sum this up, it can be stated that women suffer gender discrimination more than men in China. This has been contributed by deep-seated social biases against women’s participation in paid work, together with weak institutions that have failed to effectively implement China’s labour laws.
5.2 Recommendations
Gender discrimination in employment is a widespread aspect in Chinese workplaces and majority of people who suffer are women (Granrose, 2005). Granrose (2005) adds that the eradication of workplace gender discrimination ought to be a mutual duty of both the society and the government. Since gender discrimination complex and occurs in different forms, stopping it requires system engineering and cooperation from all stakeholders. Below are some of recommendations to address this issue.
5.2.1 Establishing and strengthening labour laws and policies
One reason why gender discrimination has continued to persist in China is because some labour laws such as retirement law perpetuate gender discrimination. In addition, there has been laxity of law enforcement. Therefore, the government should repeal such labour laws that encourage gender discrimination in employment and formulate new laws that advance equality in workplaces. More so, the enforcement of these laws should be strengthened. According to Liu et al (2006) there is need to sociali

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