Published: 12:25, March 8, 2023 | Updated: 17:05, March 9, 2023
Gender wage gap narrows, but work discrimination remains
By Cheng Si

Stylists apply makeup for female workers at a construction site in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on March 7, 2023, a day before International Women's Day. (YUAN JINGZHI / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Despite progress being made in narrowing the income gap between men and women in the past few years, many women still face impediments to their career development based on factors such as gender discrimination and marital status, according to a recent report.

According to the report by recruitment portal Zhaopin, the average monthly salary of female workers surveyed this year was 8,689 yuan ($1,252), up 1.7 percent year-on-year. Their income gap with males had narrowed to 12.6 percent, down from 23.5 percent for the same period of 2019. Males' average monthly income was 9,942 yuan this year, the survey said.

Female workers also showed higher confidence in their work performance, with 41.3 percent thinking they performed better than their male colleagues.

A report shows that 61.1 percent of female workers said they were asked about their marital status or plans to have a child during job interviews, while only 21.5 percent of males experienced such questioning

However, discrimination over gender and marital status remains the biggest obstacle to female workers' career development, according to the report.

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For example, 61.1 percent of female workers said they were asked about their marital status or plans to have a child during job interviews, while only 21.5 percent of males experienced such questioning. Around 23 percent of women said they had lost opportunities for promotion because they were at the ideal age for marriage and having children.

"My company has unwritten rules that newly recruited female workers should make a promise of not having a child in five years, or they won't be promoted. It's not fair for us women, but we have no other choice," said a 28-year-old surnamed Zhang in Beijing, who was unwilling to reveal her full name.

She said she was embarrassed while looking for a job in 2018. "I went to eight interviews around October that year, after I finished my postgraduate study in Beijing, and I was asked some offensive questions by six companies — like whether I had a boyfriend, or when will I get married. They didn't say anything when I refused to answer, but I thought it might affect their final decision to offer me the job."

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Yao Junchang, co-founder of Beijing Weiheng Law Office, said that asking job seekers' marital status is a violation of labor law.

"A company can only ask or gain job seekers' information concerning their future execution of the labor contract, and marital status has nothing to do with that," he said. "But the reality is that companies will make other excuses not to hire female workers of child-bearing age to avoid any possible legal risks.

"If companies terminate labor contracts with female workers who are pregnant or have plans for marriage or children, the female workers can prosecute to defend their rights," he added.

The central departments have made efforts to help eliminate gender discrimination against women and create a more friendly environment to let them achieve a work-life balance.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions recently said that 16 provinces and regions have launched specific regulations for protecting women's rights at work in terms of paid vacations, breastfeeding rooms and gynecological examinations after the State Council released the female workers' protection regulation in 2012.

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The federation said that as of 2020, 71.3 percent of companies had implemented the regulation, up 16.4 percentage points from a decade earlier.

The federation said that with the nation's adjustments to the birth policy, more new problems may emerge in protecting women's working rights, such as office bullying and restricting female workers from getting pregnant.

Luo Weihong, a deputy to the National People's Congress, said in a recent interview with China Youth Daily that it is understandable that companies have concerns that female workers' child-bearing plans may increase their labor costs, but the nation should develop solutions to solve the predicament.

She said it's necessary for society to reach gender equality and give more opportunities to women such as in business and political affairs.