Report: China Still Heavily Discriminates Against Women Trying to Find Jobs

While China has ratified measures against gender discrimination, thousands of jobs in the country still blatantly exclude women, a new report reveals.

Of more than 36,000 job advertisements in government and civil service it analyzed between March 2017 and January 2018, US-based NGO Human Rights Watch found specific requirements stating “men only,” “men preferred” and “suitable for men.”

When allowed to apply, women are also subject to gendered requirements, like being married with children. This preference presumably stems from the company’s intent to dodge female applicants who are yet to give birth and consequently deal with the costs of a maternity leave.

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via Flickr / Robert Scoble (CC BY 2.0)

Still, there are jobs for women that hire based on appearance, despite the fact that such physical characteristics have nothing to do with performing duties.

For one, an ad for female train conductors in Hebei province required applicants to be between 18 and 25 years old, stand between 162 and 173 centimeters, weigh below 65 kilograms and have “normal facial features, no tattoos, no obvious scars on face, neck or arms, good skin tone [and] no incurable skin conditions.”

To make matters worse, women are also objectified in the ads, serving as bait to lure male applicants. According to the report, Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba — China’s top tech companies — have been publishing ads that brag about “beautiful girls” (美女) or “goddesses” (女神) working for them.

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That strategy seemed to work, as one Harvard graduate reportedly said, “The reason I joined Tencent originated from a primal impulse. It was mainly because the ladies at human resources and that interviewed me were very pretty.”

via Wikimedia Commons / Lindsay Maizland (CC BY-SA 2.0)

These examples are problematic, as China is obligated to uphold the rights of women under international law as well as its national legislation. For one, it is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), where it’s supposed to “ensure the equal right of men and women,” including the right to work.

China is also mandated to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment” and to “refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation” under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

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At the national level, China enacted the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests, which states that “women shall enjoy equal rights with men in all aspects of political, economic, cultural, social and family life.”

Shockingly, discrimination in the government appears to be more rampant. For instance, 55% of jobs in the Ministry of Public Security sought “men only” in 2017. At the news department, its posting stated, “need to work overtime frequently, high intensity work, only men need apply.”

The authors maintained that the Chinese government is “hostile” to research by international human rights organizations, and as such, their report relied more on publicly available data, although interviews were also conducted.

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They recommended that China should end gender-specific job ads, abolish or revise laws that discriminate against women and inspect employers to ensure compliance, to name a few.

You can read the full report here.

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