New recruitment rules to stem out discrimination welcomed
Sun Ye, Gao Boyuan
02:48

Women in China are often asked several personal questions when applying for new jobs, such as their marital status, the number of kids they have. Some are even asked to take pregnancy tests.  

In the past, many employers disqualified pregnant women and new moms, thinking maternity leave would cost the company, but that trend may be changing.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Education and eight other central departments issued a notice in later February that forbids any gender discrimination against women in the workplace. 

According to the notice, employers or companies will no longer be able to ask female applicants for their marital status or the number of children they have or plan to have.

For Shen Xiaoju, the head of Human Resources at the tech company Thoughtworks China, the notice "has a good starting point," Shen told CGTN. "It will reduce women's sense of insecurity when balancing family life and career."

Her company actively seeks out women applicants, and Shen refuses to call the leaves taken and fewer hours in the office for new mothers, a cost for operation.

Nine of China's central departments recently issued a notice that forbids any gender discrimination against women in the workplace. / VCG Photo

Nine of China's central departments recently issued a notice that forbids any gender discrimination against women in the workplace. / VCG Photo

"From the company's point of view, (getting married or having children) is not a cost for us. Compared to the value and impact that new talent can bring in, this is only a temporary stage of their life. Also, there is something we contribute to society." she said.

Shen also argues that not employing enough women as some companies have done, is a cost.

"From our observation, new mothers actually have even better performance at work; probably since they enter a new role in a family, they also have a growing sense of responsibility at work. Maybe the hours are not long, but they're more efficient, ” Shen said.

As nine of China's central departments issued the joint notice outlining new discrimination guidelines against female employees, many say the new rules at work come amid a difficult reality.

One male office-worker told CGTN, "Great policy I must say, but I think it's hard to implement. What are companies going to do when women have a second child? Simply wait longer? In the end, it's us who have to work harder."

The Chinese government has promised that more favorable measures will be taken to support the employment of women further. / VCG Photo

The Chinese government has promised that more favorable measures will be taken to support the employment of women further. / VCG Photo

 "The rules are good though a little too late. We need support that straddles both family and career growth," a new mother told CGTN: She said even though she's expected to give more to her family, she has no plan to compromise on her career.

As of 2018, Chinese women's labor participation rate is among the highest in the world. But in a society where the family structure is so highly valued, women are also the ones typically shouldering family chores and child-rearing.

Li Qiang, the executive vice president of the popular online recruitment platform Zhaopin.com, told CGTN that gender discrimination remains to be tackled, even as he applauds the new rules.

"The rules come from a good start point and will have a positive impact," he said.

"Complementary measures must come along to address the costs. The labor cost from having a baby should not be on the company or individual alone. Society should share it."

He said that while some companies, especially bigger ones deal with female employees' transitioning time well, for many smaller enterprises, the adjustment costs could still mean make or break for the businesses.

"There are a lot of ways the society could share the cost (for company or individual). For example, a social benefits system could shoulder part of it. Complimentary commercial insurance could be added, too," Li said.