Gender discrimination in hiring persists in China, says rights group


Although Chinese law prohibits gender discrimination in hiring, job discrimination remains a widespread problem in the country, an international rights group said on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch said the Chinese government should instead mark International Worker’s Day, May 01, by ending gender discrimination in its civil service recruitment.

“The Chinese government claims it’s committed to gender equality in employment, but even its own hiring practices are still deeply discriminatory,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese authorities need to stop publishing job ads that blatantly discriminate against women.”

Human Rights Watch found that in the Chinese government’s 2020 national civil service job list, 11 percent of the postings specify a preference or requirement for men. In both the 2018 and 2019 job lists, 19 percent of the postings specified a preference or requirement for men. In 2017, the rate was 13 percent.

But the decrease in the overall percentage of discriminatory postings in 2020 is partly a function of the decrease in the percentage of postings by ministries that have had a concentration of discriminatory postings. That is, the most discriminatory ministries are simply not hiring as many people as in the previous year, not that they are publishing a lower percentage of discriminatory ads.

The Chinese government released the 2020 National Civil Service Positions List in October 2019. The list contains positions in the government, the Chinese Communist Party, and other government-controlled political parties that will become available across the country over the coming year.

Among the nearly 14,000 job postings – some of which were for multiple vacancies – in the 2020 list, Human Rights Watch found that 6 percent specify a preference for male applicants and 5 percent specify a requirement for male applicants.

The discriminatory job postings often state “frequent overtime work,” “heavy workload,” and “frequent travel” as reasons for excluding women.

After China ended the One-Child Policy and began to allow couples to have two children in late 2015, working women in China have increasingly faced pregnancy-related discrimination. Some women have filed lawsuits or pursued arbitration against employers who dismissed or demoted them or cut their pay after they become pregnant.

However, anti-gender discrimination laws and regulations in China provide few specific enforcement mechanisms and are not effectively enforced. Since 2013, several women have brought successful court challenges over gender discrimination in job ads, but the compensation imposed on violators, in the low hundreds of United States dollars, was so inconsequential that it was not an effective deterrent.

To address that, in February 2019, nine Chinese central government agencies, including the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the All-China Women’s Federation, jointly issued notice outlining specific measures for implementing existing laws that prohibit gender discrimination in employment.

One of the measures is banning job advertisements that specify a requirement or preference for a gender. Employers and recruiters who publish discriminatory job ads can face fines of up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,100).

According to the World Economic Forum, China’s gender parity ranking in 2019 fell for the 11th consecutive year, leaving China in 106th place out of the 153 countries surveyed (in 2008, China had ranked 57th).

“As unemployment has soared as a result of the global Covid-19 crisis, Chinese government agencies more than ever need to enforce anti-gender discrimination laws,” Wang said. “Gender equality should be at the heart of China’s economic reboot.” (Source: HRW)