China moves to prevent gender discrimination in job recruitment
Updated 14:06, 13-Mar-2019
By Chen Xiaoshu
03:34

The gender gap in the workplace is a universal problem. That's according to a report released last year by the World Economic Forum. In China, the government is trying to tackle gender-based discrimination at work, and recently issued a notice forbidding employers from asking female job applicants about their marital and childbearing status.

This is Eos Liu's third job in her five year career as a lawyer.

She said she is satisfied with both the recruitment process and how she is treated in her new company.

However, five years ago when she was a fresh graduate, she wasn't quite so happy.

A graduate attends a talent fair in Yinchuan city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. /VCG Photo

A graduate attends a talent fair in Yinchuan city, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. /VCG Photo

"When I first graduated from law school and started to look for jobs, you see a lot of promising jobs with the first requirement is 'men only.' As a female, I cannot even apply," said Liu, who is now a litigation attorney.

A recent survey from Linkedln revealed that marriage and raising children were the main reasons for the unfair treatment of women in the job market.

As a result, occupational anxiety from female characters is a current trend in many Chinese TV shows.

"During the past few years, some job interviews I took, it's pretty common for HR to ask 'Do you have a boyfriend?,' 'Are you married,' 'Do you plan to have a baby in two or three years?'”.

Despite clear progress in the legislative process, the reality for many women remains difficult.

A report by Zhaopin, a major domestic online recruitment platform, showed that the average salary of Chinese women was 23 percent lower than men's last year.

It also said that women have fewer opportunities for promotion than men. Statistics from the report revealed that last year women occupied an average of just 18.7 percent of board seats in major companies nationwide.

A girl attends an interview. /VCG Photo

A girl attends an interview. /VCG Photo

The new government notice was issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, along with eight other ministries, agencies and social groups. The legislation could see employers and recruiters who post sexist job advertisements face fines of up to 50,000 yuan, or about 7,400 U.S. dollars. More serious violations may result in further disciplinary action. It also prohibits employers from restricting the right of women to give birth as a condition for employment, and asking new hires to take pregnancy tests.

Other priorities of the notice include promoting career guidance for young women, strengthening the judicial mechanism for plaintiffs to bring discrimination cases to court, developing infant and child care services, and increasing support for female employees who go back to work after giving birth.

"The Notice aims to standardize recruiting practice. It provides recruiters with regulation to follow. Besides, the notice is jointly issued by nine departments in order to realize women's equal employment rights from many areas, because the realization of women's equal employment rights is partly a legal issue. For example, the notice mentioned that the country's health authorities should promote the development of infant and child care services," said Xie Zengyi, professor of law at Chinese Academy of Social Siences.

Liu said she is optimistic.

"We don't have anti-gender discrimination law in China, this Notice paved the way for changes in women's employment situation and will undoubtedly protect women's employment rights if implemented properly. Luckily, with my current job, our boss focuses solely on one's ability and working experience, which is and should be the right and only way," said Liu.

This year's Two Sessions have seen an increase in proposals calling for preventing gender discrimination in job recruitment.

Deputies from the All-China Women's Federation, and other walks of life, have put forward proposals which will require stimulus policies for the fair employment for women.