Writing for ChinaFile, Lijia Zhang, a leading social commentator on modern China, sheds light on the problem of widespread gender discrimination and inequality in China.
As China’s economy has slowed in the recent years, graduates face ever stiffer competition. According to Lijia, a record 7 million students graduated in 2013, yet they entered a job market that had shrunk by 15% in a year. She notes that this “situation is a far cry from the days before China’s economic reforms, when graduates were assigned jobs by the government, regardless of gender.”
Lijia argues that men seem to have an “upper hand” in this tough new competition. She explains how private companies try to avoid employing women of child-bearing age and sometimes fire them when they become pregnant. She goes onto outline how the income gap between men and women has widened in the past three decades, whilst notable differences in the employment rate between men and women is another “telling sign of gender discrimination.”
Worryingly, Lijia believes that these attitudes are getting more common among employers, especially in sought-after professions, because they have the luxury to pick and choose candidates. However, Lijia points out that China is concurrently witnessing an increase in women’s rights activism. This is significant because, compared to older generations, it shows a new level of awareness of international norms.
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