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Job situation improves for female workers

Long-term mechanism needed to promote sustainable, stable employment, expert says

By CHENG SI | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-01-22 08:58
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A deputy to the National People's Congress talks to female workers to alert them to new regulations designed to protect them and their legitimate rights. ZHU HAIPENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

China's efforts to encourage women's employment have borne fruit in recent years, though women still face pressure from their families and society, which could weaken their resolve and ability to get jobs, said experts.

The National Bureau of Statistics recently published a report showing that 320 million women were employed as of 2022, accounting for 43.2 percent of the total working population. Around 67.66 million female workers were employed by nonprivate units in urban areas, which is 40.5 percent of employees in the segment, according to the report.

These two figures correspond closely with the goals set by a guideline on women's development that was released in 2021 by the State Council, China's Cabinet. The guideline, covering the decade through 2030, aims to maintain the proportion of working women in the total workforce at around 45 percent and seeks to ensure that the proportion of women employed in urban units can reach around 40 percent by 2030.

"Women's labor force participation rate in China is much higher than the world average, and also higher than that in some developed countries, thanks to the continuous efforts the government has made in promoting women's employment," said Pang Shi, director of the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Personnel Science's department of employment and entrepreneurship.

She said that local human resources departments have organized job fairs especially for female job-seekers and channeled job vacancies for women in rural areas. "The government also offers free services such as introducing employment policies and vacancies for women who have been laid off, and organizes skills training sessions for women to help them improve their ability to get jobs," Pang said.

However, gender discrimination and concerns over work-life balance still hamper women's employment prospects and career progression, experts said.

"We are glad to see that more employers are emphasizing job seekers' ability and potential, rather than the gender. Women have also become increasingly competitive in the job market in recent years," said Li Qiang, vice-president of the recruitment portal Zhaopin. "However, we find women still face challenges and problems such as work-life balance."

"We have done a survey that found that the average salary of female respondents was 8,689 yuan ($1,210) per month in 2023, while for males it was 9,942 yuan. The difference is mainly due to gender discrimination or underestimation of women's abilities and the value they create."

He said that some women find themselves at a disadvantage in the job market due to their weak educational background and their less than perfect working skills.

"The stereotypical view that women are caretakers of the family rather than the ones assuming the main roles at the workplace has also resulted in low self-recognition for women and lower expectations of their work performance.

"Women are more vulnerable in face of social and economic problems such as poverty and unemployment, and face stricter recruitment restrictions, as males are preferred in certain situations," he added.

Pang, of the Chinese Academy of Personnel Science, said the nation needs to establish a long-term mechanism to promote the sustainable and stable employment of women.

"The government can figure out ways of improving women's participation in sectors requiring a higher level of knowledge or skills, including sciences, engineering, mathematics, research and politics," she said, adding that legal knowledge and gender equality awareness are also important, which "can help reduce the possibility of female job seekers being rejected due to their gender".

Li, from Zhaopin, added that in addition to the government's efforts, employers are encouraged to create a more friendly working environment for female workers so that they can gain equal opportunities in the promotion process and decision-making.

"Women can also win a bigger say at the workplace for themselves by improving their abilities and performance. They are encouraged to adjust career plans in accordance with the changing job market," he added.

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