Rapid growth in China has created unprecedented economic opportunities for women in the world's second-largest economy. But massive gender discrimination in job ads continues to be a major obstacle.
Gender discrimination in employment does not only remain a major problem across China, but has actually got worse, a fresh study by Human Rights Watch finds.
In its survey released Monday, the nonprofit organization stated the proportion of Chinese women working decreased to 63 percent in 2017, down from 65.5 percent a decade ago.
Human Rights Watch identified discrimination in hiring as a major reason for the gender gap, which it said was "a phenomenon on clear public display in employment recruiting advertisements.
It said government and private sector job ads in China often specified a requirement of preference for men, affecting both who applied for jobs and ultimately who got hired.
The study points out that discriminatory practices were rife in common low-paying jobs, but were also widespread in ads for prestigious positions.
Not suitable for women?
Human Rights Watch analyzed recent civil service job lists and found that in 2017, 13 percent of the job postings specified "men only," men preferred," or "suitable for men." You may have guessed that none specified "women only" or "women preferred."
Job ads in China were found to by marked by traditional views that women were "less physically, intellectually and psychologically capable then men and that women are their families' primary sources of child care and thus unable to be fully committed to their jobs."
Managers tend to argue that female employers will eventually leave full-time jobs to have a family and that accommodating maternity leave is unacceptably inconvenient or costly for the company or agency.
Women good enough to lure men?
But sometimes women's physical attributes are used in job postings to attract male applicants. HRW officials said that in recent years, China's biggest tech companies including Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba had repeatedly published recruitment ads boasting that there were "beautiful girls" or "goddesses" working for the companies, with some male employees commenting that was the primary reason for them to join those companies.
It's not that China doesn't have any legislation banning gender discrimination in hiring and advertising. However, the laws in place were found to lack a clear definition of what constitutes discrimination and effective enforcement mechanisms are weak.
Human Rights watch emphasized that only a tiny percentage of the companies who had been investigated by the government for publishing discriminatory job ads had ever been fined.