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    On the Table at ‘Two Sessions’: Paid Leave, AI, and Education Bias

    The annual meetings of the country’s top legislative and advisory bodies in Beijing conclude on March 11.
    Mar 08, 2024#politics#policy

    Better implementation of paid leave policies in the workplace, compulsory artificial intelligence courses in K-12 education, and a crackdown on discriminatory hiring practices based on education background.

    On Chinese social media platforms, these were among the most discussed motions proposed during this year’s “two sessions,” the annual meetings of the country’s top legislative and political advisory bodies, which began Monday.

    The series of gatherings, also known as lianghui, comprise the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and assist the central government in crafting the year’s social, economic, and political strategies.

    In China, motions are introduced by NPC deputies and become legally binding if adopted after deliberation. In 2023, 12,480 motions and proposals were put forward of which 4,700 were adopted and reflected in approximately 2,000 official regulations and actions.

    Here are some of this year’s motions:

    Better paid leave

    Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, a Hong Kong lawmaker and NPC deputy, urged for mandatory implementation of paid leave policies to ensure employees receive adequate time off, and called on authorities to prioritize supervision of these policies.

    In his motion, Fok proposed that enterprises should be prohibited from canceling employees’ “double rest days” through negotiations except under special circumstances. “While protective policies for paid leave and working hours exist, they haven’t been strictly enforced,” Fok said in a social media post.

    His proposal also seeks to increase annual leave days in accordance with official guidelines.

    AI in compulsory education

    Lei Jun, an NPC deputy and CEO of the tech giant Xiaomi, proposed the introduction of AI courses into primary and middle school curricula. Lei also proposed that schools establish their own AI courses and integrate them into students’ practical activities.

    This initiative is one of three suggestions in a motion aimed at nurturing talent to support the growing AI industry. Lei also called for increased financial support for AI education in universities, including the creation of AI majors and the promotion of AI-related courses across various disciplines.

    In a similar move last year, officials from the eastern Zhejiang province, home to the tech giant Alibaba, announced plans to integrate AI into K-12 education, primarily through existing science and math courses.

    Degree discrimination

    Pan Fusheng, an NPC deputy and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, proposed the elimination of “first academic degree discrimination,” a widespread practice where employers scrutinize every level of education and not just the highest degree attained.

    Pan seeks to implement more specific regulations and the development of a comprehensive talent evaluation system. He also recommended increased media coverage of young grassroots individuals overcoming social prejudices, and suggested that government departments, public institutions, and state-owned enterprises take the lead in better recruitment practices.

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: At the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress in Beijing, March 5, 2024. VCG)