On Gender Discrimination in Chinese Employment

January 2, 2015
Editor: Kiki Liu

Intersecting Forms of Discrimination in Employment

"The discrimination of women based on sex and gender is inextricably linked with other factors that affect women, such as race, ethnicity, religion or belief, health, status, age, class, caste and sexual orientation and gender identity. Discrimination on the basis of sex or gender may affect women belonging to such groups to a different degree or in different ways than men. States' parties must legally recognize and prohibit such intersecting forms of discrimination and their compounded negative impact on the women concerned (General Recommendation No. 28)." Intersecting forms of discrimination are also called "multiple gender discrimination."

Chinese, generally, are not fully aware of the intersecting forms of discrimination. Results of the 2001-2010 survey on the development of physically and mentally challenged women (organized by the Office of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council and the China Disabled Persons' Federation) indicate that, even though the Chinese Government has adopted several policies to help persons with disabilities obtain employment, fewer persons with disabilities (compared with non-disabled men and women) are being employed. Among persons with disabilities, fewer women than men are being employed. Among women with disabilities, those who live in rural areas have a harder time finding work. In other words, women are far more likely to be marginalized in the workforce, especially if they are older, a member of a minority group, hold differing religious views and/or are physically and/or mentally challenged.

We can't equate complicated factors that result in a low employment rate with discrimination in employment. Yet, we must realize that women suffer from more diverse and intersecting forms of discrimination. In our research, we haven't paid enough attention to the complexity of the issue, but have instead focused mainly on the social group to which women belong.

In 2007, China subscribed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The convention stresses that refusing to provide persons with disabilities with reasonable convenience is a form of discrimination. However, most Chinese don't know this provision. In our research, we haven't paid enough attention to the complexity of the issue, but have instead focused mainly on the social group to which women belong.

To study the complexity, persistence and stubbornness of gender discrimination, some countries and international organizations try to eliminate structural, systemic and institutional discrimination that exist in laws. They believe, to eradicate various forms of discrimination, that eliminating discrimination in systems and social norms is an essential part. Their gender mainstreaming strategies are based on that philosophy.

Also, they tend to think overprotection of women constitutes discrimination against women. They also think the traditional view that women are weak and should be protected in restrictive and exclusive ways will create obstacles for women who get involved in social development.

Overprotection of women is not always better. Creating favorable conditions for the equal development of women and men is more important. As researchers, it is our responsibility to explore the reasons for and solutions to various forms of discrimination, and to give advice and/or suggestions to ensure the rights of mankind, including women, are respected and protected.

(Source: Women of China English Monthly August 2014 Issue)

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