Expert Unveils Secret Behind Inequality of Opportunity in China

February 17, 2017
Editor: Yang Yang

Gender discrimination in employment and intergenerational effects of education, as well as family background are major sources resulting in inequality of opportunity in China, so says Song Yang, a researcher of National Academy of Development and Strategy at the Renmin University of China (RUC).

According to the 2012 Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS), Song, who also serves as an associate professor of the School of Economics at the RUC, analyzes the degree of inequality of opportunity in China and delves into the essential causes and environmental factors leading to inequality.

The earning gap caused by unequal opportunities accounts for more than 27 percent of the total income gap, overrunning the majority of member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The lower the educational background, the higher the degree of unequal opportunity

Song and his research team made a further analysis of inequality of opportunity among different groups.

With regard to age, young people face a relatively small chance of inequality, accounting for 13 percent of the overall earning gap, indicating the pay gap among young people is mainly due to different degrees of efforts. Instead, people aged 35 or above are more largely affected by inequality of opportunity, accounting for 37 percent of the total pay gap.

In addition, inequality among people with lower educational backgrounds is much higher than amongst people who have an undergraduate degree or above, up to 34 percent of the total surveyed.

For those with an educational background of senior high school or below, the pay gap is largely due to factors they cannot control, including gender, family background, etc.

Gender discrimination in employment, intergenerational effects of education and family background are all main causes resulting in inequality of opportunity

Findings show that gender discrimination in the labor market is a major cause of the gender pay gap. Moreover, the intergenerational effects of education also mean people from different families face different educational opportunities, further widening the earning gap.

The study also shows that a good family background not only helps children receive a high-quality education, but also provides them with better job opportunities and a higher salary through human relations.

Expert's suggestions on how to reduce inequality of opportunity and narrow the pay gap

The expert has appealed to the authorities to address the problems of unequal opportunity through the following measures:

- Standardizing behaviors of the labor market through legislation, with a view to eliminating gender discrimination in employment as far as possible.

- Promoting the equity of public educational resources and reducing intergenerational effects of education.

- Further perfecting employment mechanisms and reducing the role of 'personal relationships' in the allocation of human resources.

- Eliminating the income gap brought about by environment differences through tax and transfer payment.

(Source: / Translated and edited by Gender Study Network)

Please understand that,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by