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    China Calls for Greater Gender Equality in Work, Politics, and Home

    While authorities are keen to improve the lives and wellbeing of women, some rights advocates say the goals are vague.
    Sep 28, 2021#gender#labor

    China’s Cabinet, the State Council, on Monday unveiled the new 10-year plan for the development of women. The document encompasses nearly 200 goals and supportive measures — including new and revised ones — to advance women’s rights over the coming decade, spanning areas including health, education, and work.

    Here are some highlights from the document:

    Women at work

    Chinese authorities have outlined the country must achieve a 45% employment rate among women nationally over the next 10 years. Currently, women account for 43.7% of the workforce.

    More specifically, the female workforce should account for around 40% of employment in cities and townships and 40% in highly specialized jobs, according to the document. Meanwhile, women from ethnic groups will be prioritized for jobs in nearby locations.

    Authorities also said there will be proper implementation of the existing laws on equal pay, while employers will be penalized for any gender discrimination — a persistent issue at workplaces in China. The document also bans dismissals relating to pregnancy, unreasonable pay cuts, and calls on employers to ensure nursing rooms and child-care centers at workplaces.

    Women in politics

    China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), now has the highest ratio of women ever, but they still only account for 24.9% of all deputy cadres. The 10-year plan on the development of women aims to change that.

    There are plans to “gradually increase the ratio” of female delegates in the top legislature and the country’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). However, the document didn’t mention the ratio of female members in the party’s elite seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, which has been devoid of a female leader since the Cultural Revolution.

    Chen Yaya, a gender researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told Sixth Tone that the current plan is “too vague,” which could create hurdles in achieving its goals.

    Women in the family

    One of the most discussed areas of the new document involves the government’s plan to reduce abortions for “non-medical reasons.” The reduction in abortion rate was also mentioned in previous 10-year plans, but its inclusion in the current document has particularly baffled many, considering the country’s plans to boost its declining birth rates.

    The new 10-year plan also highlights “women’s unique role in the family” and their responsibility in “promoting the family virtues of the Chinese nation.” Meanwhile, it calls for equal distribution of domestic duties, encouraging couples to share household chores and taking care of children and the elderly.

    Chinese women spend an average of 1.5 extra hours doing household chores compared with their husbands, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

    Women’s rights in law

    The current 10-year plan guarantees more robust protection for women against domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment, while promising to fully implement existing laws. It also calls for “severe punishments” for those found guilty of serious crimes.

    The document particularly acknowledges “secondary harm” during legal interrogations — a concern voiced by survivors of gender violence. Authorities have often been accused of having an insensitive attitude, such as asking inappropriate questions, when working with survivors of gender-based violence.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Women delegates participate at a physical fitness event in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, March 8, 2021. People Visual)