From a biased sex ratio at birth to low representation of women in leadership positions, women in China are still at a great disadvantage in many areas, according to a new report by the Chinese government.
While most of the unpaid work is done by women, men still dominate important positions in the political system, top academies and judicial systems, according to the report, “Women and Men in China, Facts and Figures 2019”.
Development of women in China had “reached a brand new level”, but it was still an “arduous” task because of factors relating to economic growth, historical and cultural reasons, said the report, published on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) website this week.
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It was issued by the National Bureau of Statistics of China and is its sixth report on the theme since 1995. The UNFPA provided technical and financial support.
The ratio of boys to girls at birth, a reflection of sex preference, remained high. There were nearly 112 boys born for every 100 girls in 2017, according to the report.
The natural ratio in this regard is often considered to be around 105 boys for every 100 girls, according to the World Health Organisation.
In 2015, a year after China allowed a second child for some couples, the sex ratio for the second child was over 113 boys for every 100 girls. When it comes to the third child, whose parents need to pay a social support fee as punishment, the ratio was over 148.
In employment, women accounted for just 30 per cent of leadership positions, the report indicated.
The number of women in China’s legislature is rising, but there are still far fewer than men. Women made up only one-quarter of the National People’s Congress membership, it showed. There is just one woman in the 25-member Politburo of the Communist Party.
Taking care of family was the top reason women lost their jobs, while the time they spent on unpaid care work was more than double that done by men.
Gender disparity continued to be much higher in rural areas, the report suggested.
While China has closed the gender education gap with both sexes achieving universal literacy in urban areas after imposing a nine-year compulsory education, many born in poor villages are still not able to finish school. The average period of education received in rural areas is 7.3 years for girls, comparing to 8.1 years for boys.
For senior rural dwellers, about 57 per cent of women live supported by their family members, compared with 35 per cent for men, the report showed.
Feng Yuan, co-founder of Equality, an NGO for women’s rights, said: “Progress is slow and in some ways it’s even going backwards, because there has been no practical policy and measures [from the government].”
She urged the central government to take the major responsibility for pushing gender equality forwards.
“It needs more determination from the top leadership,” she said.
China ranked 106th among 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s annual ranking on global gender equality last year.
It was the 11th decline in a row, mainly because of slow improvement in its male-dominated political landscape, the report said.
It was 63rd in 2006 when the organisation began compiling the rankings.
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