Gender inequality in China

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Woman selling textiles at an outdoor market
Zhuang woman in Guilin

China is a socialist planned economy which promoted female entitlement, equality, destruction of traditional gender roles, and depopulation before 1978. After embarking on economic reforms in the 1990s and early 2000s, gender inequality in the Chinese labour markets emerged as insignificant economic and social issues.

On a global scale, gender inequality in China is relatively slight. In 2014, China ranked 91 out of 187 countries[1] on the United Nations Development Programme's Gender Inequality Index (GII). Among the GII components, China's maternal mortality ratio was 32 out of 100,000 live births. In education 58.7 percent of women age 25 and older had completed secondary education, while the counterpart statistic for men was 71.9 percent. Women's labour power participation rate was 63.9 percent (compared to 78.3 percent for men), and women held 23.6 percent of seats in the National People's Congress.[2]

Before the 1949 revolution[edit]

Before the 1949 Maoist revolution, women were generally restricted to the traditional gender roles of wives, concubines, or prostitutes.[3] Female oppression stemmed partly from Confucian beliefs about gender roles in society (such as filial piety), ideas which remain influential.[4] Wives were expected to be subservient to their husbands, kowtowing to their husbands.[3] Concubines had less choice than married women, and were kept as mistresses by men for sexual services or to produce children.[3] Prostitution frequently resulted from women being sold into brothels by their parents.[3] Legal during the Qing Dynasty, there were few laws regulating prostitution;[5] as a result, prostitutes were similar to slaves and lacked legal rights.[5]

Marriage was defined loosely and encompassed wives, concubines, and slaves.[5] Men were free to pursue sex from women in any of these three categories of "extended family".[5] Women were prohibited from having sex with family slaves, a crime punishable by decapitation.[5] Men were frequently polygamous (allowed one wife and an unlimited number of concubines), but women were permitted only one husband.[5] This relationship between men and women in the household illustrated the power held by men in the family and their greater freedom compared with women.[3][5] Women, for example, would generally lose social standing due to an extramarital affair.[5] However, Qing laws punished both parties equally for premarital sex.[5]

Foot binding[edit]

A noted repressive practice was foot binding.[4] Foot binding originated during the Song Dynasty, and was practiced by the wealthiest members of society in the 11th century. Over time, the practice increased and spread to the peasantry.[3] Foot binding was intended to differentiate between upper and lower classes; it was considered attractive,[6] with bound feet known as "golden lotuses".[7]

It aimed to limit the growth of girls' feet, and began at age three. Foot binding eventually resulted in the arch of the foot becoming so angled that a woman was in constant pain and had limited ability to walk.[3] Foot binding subordinated women to men in a number of respects. It was an essential component of marriage eligibility, since women often bound their feet to increase their chance of finding a better marriage partner.[8] Men used foot binding to force women to be dependent; due to pain associated with walking, women were limited to household activities.[3][9] Women with bound feet had considerable difficulty carrying out simple tasks (such as standing up from a chair without assistance) and a lower functional reach than women with normal feet.[10] Foot binding encouraged the sexual objectification of women, since it fulfilled men's sexual desires and fantasies.[9] It reinforced the ideology that women were useful only in sexualized, sedentary roles to satisfy men's desires.[9]

Foot binding was such an established part of Chinese culture that the Emperor K'ang Hsi was unable to suppress the practice in 1650.[11] Widespread anti-foot binding sentiment began during the late 19th century, and gained in popularity until the practice was outlawed in 1912.[8] In 1997, the feet of 38 percent of Beijing women over 80 years of age and 18 percent of women aged 70–79 were deformed by foot binding.[10]

Women's education[edit]

The purpose of women's education was to reinforce their subordinate status and ensure that they obeyed rules made by men. Women were taught social norms which restricted their rights and behavior.[12] Only middle-class and wealthier women would receive an education, indicating a family's superiority. Women were educated at home by teachers who followed social norms. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, four books were used for women's education: Nü sishu (including Nüjie) by Ban Zhao, Nü lunyu by Song Ruoxin, Nüxun by Empress Renxiao, and Nüfan jielu by Ms. Liu.[13] These books reinforced norms which harmed women and restricted their daily activities. The three obediences and four virtues which were adopted by many women are part of Nüjie. The three obediences were "obey father before marriage", "obey husband during marriage" and "obey sons during widowhood", illustrating the subordination of women to men throughout their lives. The four virtues were "female virtues", "female words", "female appearance" and "female work", designed to fulfill the needs of men and society. Women's desires and needs were trivialized, and education became a tool to maintain male control of women.[14]

A woman's personality was also restricted by this education. Women were taught to be weak and subordinate, respecting the men who dominated them. The physical differences between men and women as well were emphasized; men were seen as yang, and women were seen as yin. Yin and yang are the opposite of each other, and women were not allowed to physically interact with men outside of marriage. Women (as yin) were considered a negative element, reinforcing their inferior status, and were sometimes forbidden from leaving their room to demonstrate their loyalty. Obedience to men and elder relatives was the essential element of women's education. Women were powerless to resist, since society would not accept women who challenged men. As a socializing agent, women's education played an important role in shaping their image and maintaining their subordinate status for many dynasties.[15]

Mao era[edit]

During the planned-economy era of (1949-1978, also known as the Mao Zedong era), the Communist Party sought to make Chinese women legally and socially equal to men.[16] The Communist government attempted to challenge Confucian beliefs,[17] and one of its main goals was to improve the social position of women by promoting their entry into the labour force.[17] The Constitution of the People's Republic of China, which was enacted in 1954, stated that women and men should have equal rights. To promote gender equality, the Communist Party promoted the slogan "Women hold up half the sky" to illustrate the importance of women to China's economic success.[18] The party and the government implemented policies ensuring equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity for men and women.[19]

In practice, however, wage inequality still existed during this era due to occupational and industrial segregation by gender.[20] Enterprises typically divided their jobs into two groups (primary and secondary); men were more likely to be given primary jobs, and women secondary jobs.[19] While women were entering the labour market, they were still expected to look after their homes and families. As a result, women were said to bear "a double burden" of work during the Mao era.[21]

State feminism[edit]

State feminism refers to the state's support of women's equality in the public and work sectors through legislation, often progressive state laws to ensure gender equality.[22] This state-supported feminism promoted employment opportunities for women in the public sector and provided benefits such as maternity leave and day care to female workers. State feminism also enforced laws prohibiting polygamy, the buying and selling of women, arranged marriage and prostitution.[22]

Yang stated in her article, "From Gender Erasure to Gender Difference", that state feminism during the Mao era liberated "women from the traditional kinship patriarchy, but although women were catapulted into the public sphere of labour and politics, the feminist agenda was forgotten with the decline of gender salience and women's transformation into state subjects in a new masculine state order".[22] According to Lisa Rofel, an American anthropologist studying feminism and gender studies, "The status of unfortunate widows (and their daughters) of poor families changed dramatically from 'broken shoes' to 'labour models' after 1949".[23] Although state feminism provided some legal protection to women, it did not achieve gender equality. Gail Hershatter agreed: "The communist revolution didn't change the work women did. Women had always worked. What the revolution changed is the work environment and the social interpretation of working outside of familial context."[24]

Post-Mao era[edit]

Economic reforms and labour market[edit]

Changing employment policy was a major part of China's reforms after the Mao era.[25] Under Mao China formed the Tong Bao Tong Pei employment system, a centralised system which created government-guaranteed jobs.[25] Due to widespread unemployment after the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party and the government phased out guaranteed employment and reformed the employment system as part of larger economic changes.[25]

Reform took place in three stages.[25] During the first stage (1978–1991), the existing framework was adapted: maintaining planned employment as the primary form of employment and adding a two-track system permitting government and private-sector employment.[25] In the second stage (1992–2001), additional reforms continued to promote the market-oriented employment system while maintaining a degree of planned employment.[25] In the third stage (after 2001), the reform process was accelerated to generate a market-oriented employment system in which private-sector employment was primary.[25] Market reforms took China away from central economic planning and towards a system based on capitalist market mechanisms.[26]

Although women gained significantly greater opportunities for work under the economic reform, they have borne a disproportionate share of its costs.[27][28] China's market-oriented economic reforms undermined workplace gender equality by using migrant women as a cheap, flexible labour force.[28] Migrant women make up a large proportion of factory workers, maids, and domestic workers, jobs which are prone to exploitation due to a lack of public scrutiny.[28] However, migrant women are essential to the success of China's free-market economy; without their inexpensive labour, the country could not compete successfully in the global manufacturing market.[28] Lacking strict government regulations protecting women's rights (partially due to the degree of corruption in China), gender inequality in the labor market continues to be an issue plaguing the country's free market system.[26][28]

Since the economic reforms, the average real earnings of male professional workers have grown by 350 percent.[citation needed] Although women have gained working opportunities, the unparalleled growth in male salaries have widened the gender wage gap. The greatest ( and broadest) increases in the wage gap occurred during the late 1990s, as the labour market shifted from an administratively-regulated wage system to a market-oriented one.[29][30]

One-child policy and gender disparity[edit]

Women working at sewing machines in a large room
Female workers in a Chinese silk factory

Introduced in 1979, China's one-child policy set a limit on the number of children parents could have. Because parents preferred sons, the incidence of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide substantially increased.[31] This has led to male overpopulation in China; in 2005, men under age 20 outnumbered women by more than 32 million.[31]

Workplace inequality[edit]

Wage inequality[edit]

Gender-based wage stratification has become a major issue in post-reform China. A 2013 study found that women are paid 75.4 percent of what men are paid (an average of RMB 399 per month, compared to RMB 529 per month for men).[32]

These statistics are in line with previous findings; a 1990 wage survey found that women earned 77.4 percent of male income in urban areas (RMB 149.6, compared to RMB 193.2 for men) and 81.4 percent of male income in rural areas (an annual average of RMB 1,235 for women and RMB 1,518 for men).[33] These findings indicate that the income gap has not been closing in China, and wage inequality may be on the rise.[32] Two-thirds of this differential has been attributed to unequal pay for the same work.[32] Part of the difference results from higher-quality skills acquired by men through better educational opportunities, managerial positions, and previous work experience. Since women have limited opportunity to develop the education or skills necessary to obtain higher-level jobs, they are often paid less for their work;[32] female entrepreneurs are denied access to the networking opportunities of their male counterparts.[26] A number of factors have contributed to the rise in wage inequality in China.[34]

Educational background and profession have been identified as two main factors of an increased gender wage gap,[34] and regional impacts have been recognized as a major cause of the increasing wage inequality.[34] Women in the workplace still face discrimination, and are discouraged from applying for managerial and highly-paid jobs. The high end of most sectors is still male-dominated, and business events often include the sexual objectification of women. In Chinese business culture, deals and partnerships are made through evenings of banqueting, going to KTV bars and drinking.[26] Female hostesses (and sometimes prostitutes) play an important role in the success of these gatherings, highlighting the businessmen's masculinity.[26] Due to the sexualized nature of these events, female entrepreneurs are frequently discouraged from (or uncomfortable attending) these networking evenings.[26] As a result, businesswomen have less access to the networks of government officials, business partners, and underworld organizations which are crucial to entrepreneurial success in China.[26]

A main factor in the Hong Kong gender wage gap is age. More men achieve superior positions in a job because women leave the job market earlier to take care of their family. Men remain in the job market longer, allowing for more raises and better jobs. Women in their 30s earn 11 per cent less on average than their male counterparts, and the gap increases with age; women over 60 earn an average of HK$322,000, about half the HK$618,000 earned by men.[35] Although the wage gap has narrowed, there is room for improvement. Gender-based wage inequality will be a major factor in pay decisions because of inclusion and diversity (I&D) programs; thirteen percent of Asia-Pacific employers have I&D programs.[36]

Occupational segregation[edit]

Feminization of informal sector employment and devaluation of female-dominated occupations are two new labor-market trends since China's economic reforms.[37] A survey of seven provinces and eleven cities found that gender segregation increased in forty-four out of fifty-one examined occupations between 1985 and 2000,[37] and women were restricted from entering a larger number of professional occupations based on their gender.[37] They were barred from more white-collar jobs than blue-collar ones, demonstrating the difficulty women have in obtaining higher-level jobs.[38] One impact of gendered jobs is lower wages for women, illustrated by the lower average incomes of female-dominated enterprises compared to male-dominated ones. During the early 1990s, an increase in the number of female employees in the sales and service industries was accompanied by a reduction in the average income of these sectors. Data from the same time period indicates an inverse relationship between the proportion of women employed at an institution and the average wage of the institution's employees.[39]

Beauty economy[edit]

The "beauty economy" refers to companies using attractive young women to increase profits.[26] The women used to promote goods and services are generally known as pink-collar workers.[26] These women can be found at car shows and company booths at conventions, and in publishing, insurance, and real-estate development.[26] The beauty economy is a marked shift from Mao-era attitudes in which sexuality was subdued to promote gender equality.[40] In 21st-century China, sexuality is promoted in capitalist endeavors.[40] Although many women involved in the beauty economy hold relatively-mundane jobs, others are involved in legally-complicated endeavors as "grey women": mistresses and hostesses who cater to a rich clientele.[26] These women are sell their sexuality (sometimes including their bodies) as a consumable good in the capitalist economy.[26] The close relationship between hypersexualized grey women and the business world has made extramarital affairs common amongst Chinese businessmen.[26] This highly publicized trend has created a new market for aging wives of products to remain youthful and (ideally) keep their husbands faithful.[40] In 2004, China had the world's eighth-largest cosmetics market in the world and Asia's second-largest.[40] The beauty economy has set high standards for physical appearance, encouraging women to consume youth-preserving products and promoting ageism.[40]


During the state-owned enterprise (SOE) reforms of the late 1990s, women were laid off in greater numbers and received larger pay cuts than men.[18] Female-dominated industries, such as textiles and other light industry, were affected greatly by the reforms and many women lost their jobs;[19] employees in secondary jobs were laid off in greater numbers than those in primary jobs. Since women occupied a high proportion of secondary jobs, they were the first to be laid off during the economic downturn; women were also forced to retire at a younger age than men. The government-mandated retirement age for women was generally five years younger than that for men, but internal retirement ages (determined by individual enterprises) were even lower for women. Enterprises which laid off the most workers had performed poorly and were unable to survive in the new market economy; they also employed a larger proportion of women than men. When the companies went under, larger numbers of women than men were unemployed.[19]

Hiring discrimination[edit]

During the market-oriented reforms, there was widespread evidence of employment discrimination in hiring.[19] Sexism in recruitment takes two forms: explicit and hidden.[19] Explicit gender discrimination refers to directly-stated restrictions on women in the recruitment process, and hidden discrimination occurs primarily in the preferential hiring of men. Contemporary China has three general types of gender-based hiring discrimination. Gender restrictions on careers and jobs create an environment where women are only welcomed into careers which match traditional female roles: primarily domestic, secretarial, or factory work.[28] Gender discrimination also affects women of reproductive age, who are frequently passed over due to a potential future loss of productivity resulting from pregnancy.[18] Ageism affects many women, especially those working in the service industry (where youth is a key component of workplace success).[26] In this sector, women over age 30 are frequently denied jobs.[19] Female job-seekers over age 40 are especially subject to ageism in most industries, despite being past child-bearing age.[19] The age limit for men is more relaxed, usually 40 or 45 years of age.[19] Although laws are in place to prevent hiring discrimination, there is little enforcement.[28]

Impact of foreign direct investment on wages[edit]

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has significantly impacted employment in China. The number of employees hired by foreign direct investment enterprises in the country's urban areas increased steadily from 1985 to 2005; between 2002 and 2005, the number of employees hired by FDI enterprises in urban China increased by 5.95 million.[41] FDI is mainly driven by China's low cost of labor. A considerable number of foreign-invested enterprises are based in labor-intensive industries such as the garment industry, electronics manufacturing, and the food and beverage processing industry.[41]

FDI has disproportionately affected women, who frequently hold low-skill, low-paying factory jobs funded by foreign investment.[42] A 2000 study found that 62.1 percent of FDI-employed workers were female.[43] Wages by gender have been inconsistently affected by FDI, with pay equality in FDI industries increasing in 1995 and decreasing in 2005.[44] This shift may be caused by increased FDI investment in production, resulting in additional low-paying factory jobs which are predominantly filled by women.[44]

Confucianism and gender[edit]

Confucianism provided a framework which judged individuals by their faithfulness and adherence to social norms dictated by ancient customs.[45] Men were evaluated according to how well they fulfilled their social positions as husbands, fathers, sons or servants. Correspondingly, women were valued based on their conduct as wives, mothers and daughters.[45] Mainly assigned household activities, women were considered less important and therefore inferior.[45]

During the late 12th century, neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Xi advocated the "three bonds" between ruler and subject, father and son, and husband and wife.[4] Husbands were granted power over their wives through the Confucian emphasis on sexual differentiation as key to maintaining societal harmony.[4] While husbands ruled the "external world", women operated in the "internal world" by running the household; however, women lacked power in society.[4] Although women held executive power in the household, their influence rarely rivaled that of men in the public sphere.[4] Confucian values indicated, and reinforced, a clear hierarchy.[17] Women were subordinate to men—particularly young women, who were on the lowest level of this hierarchy.[17]

In Confucian Chinese culture, women's identities were often oppressed; the deeply-rooted Confucian teachings which shaped Chinese culture and values reinforced a patriarchal family unit that devalued women. A daughter was seen as a temporary member of her father's side of the family, since she would leave the family at marriage. This notion of family abandonment is reflected in Magarey Wolf's statement in "Uterine Families and the Women's Community" that "when a young woman marries, her formal ties with the household of her father are severed ... that she, like the water, may never return".[46] In Chinese Confucian society, a woman's identity is subordinated and she is barely recognized as a person.[47][48]

Influence in contemporary China[edit]

For Chinese women, discovering personhood and kinship is challenging because Confucian culture can be an obstacle. Confucianism highlights the ideal of "nan zhu wai, nu zhu nei" (男主外,女主内), reflecting female subordination by encouraging women to remain in the household while their husbands are the breadwinners in the outside world.[49] According to Wang's 2012 article, "Goodbye Career, Hello Housekeeping", "80 percent of husbands in China hope their wives will become full-time homemakers" to stabilize their marriage and take care of their families.[50] Under the Confucian influence, it has been the norm for women to quit their outside job to fulfill their obligations as wives while men remain in control outside the household and remain in their profession. It is rare in Chinese society to challenge the idea of women sacrificing their professional career, because Chinese society has a "relative[ly] ambiguous boundary between public and private spheres".[51] This ambiguity may be a vital obstacle to gender equality. A women's sense of self in Chinese society includes her husband, her inner circle and her family by marriage, broadening (and complicating) her definition of personhood. Women's dedication and sacrifices are justified by a societal norms and a Confucian culture which increase female subordination. According to Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiaotong, "Sacrificing the family for one's own interests, or the lineage for the interests of one's household, is in reality a formula, with this formula, it is impossible to prove that someone is acting selfishly".[52] <en are in an advantageous position, since this differential mode of association legitimizes women's sacrifice of their professional career as a normal social pattern for the benefit of the family; a husband's preference for his wife to stay home while he keeps his career is not seen as selfishness. Male selfishness is justified by the differential mode of association which "drives out social consciousness".[52] Wives who sacrifice their "lineage for the sake of [their] family, [they are actually projected as] performing a public duty".[51]

Family pressure and marriage[edit]

Women face significant pressures from their families during their mid- to late twenties to quit working and get married. In rural northwestern China, some mothers still consider education less important for their daughters since they are expected to marry and leave home.[53] There is an insignificant gender gap in educational investments in rural northwestern China, however, indicating progress in educational gender equality.[53] Although work can be a way for women to postpone marriage, failure to marry is socially unacceptable for Chinese women.[28] Fewer Chinese women remain working past marriage, and those who do often struggle to balance work and familial expectations.[21] By relinquishing income generation to their husbands and staying home, many Chinese women lose autonomy and authority. Societal adherence to strict Confucian values about filial piety and women's obedience to men, intended to create hierarchies in the home which produce harmony in society, produces a patrilineal, patriarchal system which discourages gender equality.[54] Marriage pressures stem from Confucian values which promote the necessity for women to marry to continue the family lineage by bearing a son.[54]

Family pressure has been, and continues to be, a main driving force of Chinese marriages. Although society has progressed from traditional values, heterosexual marriages remain the most socially-accepted form of union. This leads to struggles for LGBTQ marriages to be accepted, leading to contract or cooperative marriages (hezuo hunyin or xingshi hunyin).[55] Cooperative marriages are an extreme form of heterosexual pretence, typically consensual relationships between a lesbian (lala) and a gay man. Cooperative marriages are the result of strong family pressure to conform to societal expectations of a heterosexual marriage, underpinning the inequality of same-sex marriages.[56]

Further examples of family pressure in Chinese society are flash marriages. A flash (or blitz) marriage is a union between partners who have known each other for less than a month. This form of union has become increasingly popular in China due to economic and social factors. Men and women perceive happiness as a result of stability in contemporary China, particularly in the relationship and family spheres.[57] However, financial stability and successful careers have also become predominant aspirations amongst young professionals.[57] Young professionals (particularly women) are often still expected to marry at a relatively-young age, and if they fail to do so they are known as sheng nu (leftover women).[57] Strong family pressure reinforces this ideology, and the focus on career development often leads to less time for individual personal lives (resulting in flash marriages).[57]

"Surplus women"[edit]

Women who resist family pressure and do not marry by their late twenties risk being stigmatized as sheng nu (剩女, leftover women).[58][59] Due to the prevalence of marriage in China, these unmarried women are often seen by potential employers as overly particular or otherwise flawed.[21] The "surplus women" perception promotes gender inequality in the workplace by characterizing unmarried women as inferior.[21] Older women frequently struggle to find jobs, due to discrimination against their marital status.[21]

Woman looking at an outdoor display of identical forms
Woman viewing matchmaking ads in China

In response to the surplus-women issue, many urban parents pursue partners for their older unmarried daughters in matchmaking corners.[21] These corners are essentially marriage markets; parents place their daughter or son's name and personal information on a card for others to see as they look for a potential match.[21] Although the success rate for matchmaking corners is low and parents are ashamed of resorting to them, many desperate parents continue to visit the corners on their children's behalf.[21] A frequent complaint from parents of daughters is a lack of quality men nationwide, despite a surplus of men.[21] Matchmaking corners illustrate the importance of marriage and the lengths to which parents will go to ensure that their daughters do not become "surplus women".[21] Due to parental anxiety, women are pressured to marry young (even a flash marriage, at the cost of career and independence) before they see themselves as too old to find a quality husband.[59]

SK-II, a Japanese skincare brand, released a video about "leftover women".[59] The video encourages them to live the life they want to live and not let their future be determined by what their parents want or what they have been raised to believe is a good life.[59] Telling the story of several Chinese women over age 27 and their families, it ends with their families' support[59] and calls China's unmarried men "leftover men".[59] The video illustrates the issue's prevalence in China and female resentment of it.[59]

Gendered social mobility[edit]

Hukou system[edit]

Originally developed during the Communist era to inhibit mobility between the countryside and the cities (increasing government control), the Hukou system (household registration system) remains influential.[28] Under this system, families are registered in a specific region and can only use schools and healthcare in that region.[28] Since hukou is tied to the maternal line, the system disproportionately affects social mobility for women.[60] Although rural women can travel to cities for work, these migrants have no access to healthcare (due to their rural registration) and limited ability to marry and bear children in the city.[28] When migrant women have children in the cities, their children have no access to education unless they return home or they pay out of pocket.[28] Many migrant women are forced to return to the countryside to have children, sacrificing their urban jobs and temporarily separated from their husbands.[28]

Families with urban registration have significant advantages over those with rural registration.[60] School-age children from urban families with parental incomes, education, and jobs similar to rural families generally receive two additional years of schooling at higher-accredited and better-funded schools.[60] Since hukou is passed through the maternal line, the system prevents rural women from giving their children social mobility and perpetuates gender and rural-urban inequality.[28]

Family role and job mobility[edit]

Studies of gender differences in contemporary China have indicated that family concerns affect men's and women's job mobility differently. Women tend to be negatively affected in employment by marriage and family, and a significant job-mobility gender gap exists in urban China. An urban study of job changes found that women tend to experience family-oriented job changes and involuntary terminations, and men tend to experience career-oriented job changes. Women are expected to prioritize family and marriage, and men are expected to prioritize their career. The study noted employer discrimination against, and fewer career opportunities for, married women (who, it is believed, have lower productivity and commitment to work due to family obligations).[61] Another study of the urban Chinese labour market demonstrates that the presence of children under age five negatively affects women's employment status and income, but not men's. Women are expected to take care of children and housework, and their roles as wives, mothers and caregivers cause work-family conflicts and constrain job choices. Many women seek a work-family balance by choosing family-friendly jobs ("female-typical" jobs, with lower pay and less opportunity for career advancement) to fulfill their expected responsibilities from work and family.[62] A study of unemployment duration among urban Chinese women indicated that married women have a higher layoff rate, longer unemployment periods and less opportunity to be re-employed than married men. In the traditional Chinese view, women are expected to be family caregivers and men are expected to be family breadwinners. Employers (mostly male) tend to protect men's employment and consider it more acceptable to lay off women, who can "take back" their responsibilities in the family after the retreat from employment.[63]

Access to assets[edit]

The traditional Chinese family is patriarchal. This view regulates gender roles and divisions of labor in the family, and affects resource allocation in the family and any family business. Men usually control valuable resources and assets such as land, property, and credit, and can accumulate capital and start a business more easily than women. In a family business, women are usually unpaid labor and entrepreneurial rights and opportunities are reserved for men.[64]

Women are expected to be family caregivers. In contemporary China, women are also expected to financially contribute to the family (especially in rural China, where economic development is relatively low). In many rural families, men and women will migrate to urban areas to support their rural family. A study of migrant workers in southern China found that women usually spend less and send a larger proportion of their wages back to their rural family than men do.[65]

Extracurricular self-development[edit]

Institutions and activities for self-improvement have emerged in China, particularly in urban centers. These training activities may foster skills relevant to the job market or focus on self-realization. Many women in China participate such activities, particularly those related to emotional well-being and psychotherapy.[66] However, access to these activities is limited by gender. Women often consider their self-improvement as limited to their lives before marriage, since after marriage (unlike men) their main role is caring for children or parents.[67]


Framing of women's issues[edit]

Much of mainstream media has featured marriage and private life as women's issues, rather than gender discrimination and inequality. A study indicated that "delaying marriage and relationship" was the most-frequently-discussed topic in mainstream media. It has focused on women's personal lives, such as marriage and romantic relationships, while gender issues such as "gender discrimination" and "traditional expectations" have often been ignored.[68]


Nüzhubo (female broadcasters) are female performers who stream themselves performing on live-streaming sites, mostly by singing, dancing, video-game commenting, or eating (mukbang). "Livestream viewing has become a mainstream pastime with more than 200 active livestreaming platforms and millions of concurrent viewers every day in contemporary China."[This quote needs a citation] The live-streaming industry in China is dominated by women, and the growth of the industry is built on the popularity of Nüzhubo. Nüzhubo earn a living by receiving virtual gifts from followers, and are subject to "constructions of the male gaze" by media and the public.[This quote needs a citation] With fierce competition for viewers and followers, most try to attract viewers (especially male viewers) with their appearance. Some are criticized by local and foreign media for their use of sexual content to increase popularity.[69]

See also[edit]

Selection of children by gender:



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See also[edit]