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Job Inequality Still a Serious Issue for Women
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At a reception held in Beijing yesterday to celebrate the International Women's Day, which falls on March 8, Gu Xiulian, president of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) and vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), said: "Inequality in employment is still a serious issue." She cited the amended Labor Law that prohibits employers from raising the bar when recruiting women or rejecting them on gender grounds.


"I think the fundamental cause of gender discrimination is the incorrect idea of 'female inferiority' that is ingrained in many people's minds," she said. "A new gender culture should be cultivated to increase harmony between the sexes and the government should explore market mechanisms that can promote women's job prospects."


Gu admitted that it is a long and arduous task that requires input and coordination from all government agencies. The labor department should monitor the market; the legal department should assist women to defend their rights; and unions, the Communist Youth League and the women's organizations should get involved in protecting women and their rights to employment.


On the issue of domestic violence, Gu said that improving the legal system is the best way to deal with it because of the difficulty of obtaining evidence.


"Our litigation system does not sufficiently cover cases of domestic violence and sexual harassment, and we also need to study ways of defining these offences and determining penalties," she noted.


A resolution passed in 2005 goes some way to deal with sexual harassment. There are four channels a victim can pursue for redress: first, file a complaint with the employer of the offender; second, report the matter to the local police; third, file a civil lawsuit with the local court; and fourth, file a complaint with the women's federation.


Gu also urged employers to stand up for their female employees' rights by abiding by the law and taking any action necessary to stop the harassment.


As domestic violence and sexual harassment tend to happen behind closed doors, evidence isn't easy to come by. In addition to better legal protection, raising awareness is paramount in increasing a woman's capacity to protect herself, she said. They should know how to collect evidence and seek assistance and not miss the window of opportunity while evidence is still available.


On the national work priorities for this year, Gu said: "High on the list is the fight against poverty. We must protect the rights of women farmers in relation to land use and again in employment. We are also pushing to raise management skills for women in the public service."


"Reducing the school dropout rate for girls in remote areas, and improve healthcare for rural women and female migrant workers are also on the agenda."


"In addition, we will continue to focus on women's rights in marriage, and the kidnapping of women and children."


Significant progress made


Overall, Chinese women are making big strides in every area.


In 2004, women accounted for 44.8 percent of employees, or 336.9 million jobs, an increase of 12.52 million from 2000.


The number of births at hospitals went up by 9.9 percent to 82.8 percent. Rural hospital deliveries jumped 11.9 percent to 77.1 percent.


During that same period, infant mortality at birth dropped 9.6 percent.


Life expectancy for women currently stands at 73.3 years, which is 3.9 years more than men and close to that of advanced nations.


The gap in education between the sexes is also gradually narrowing.


In 2004, elementary school enrolment for girls was 98.93 percent while that for boys was 98.97 percent. Women had an average of 7.51 years of education while men had 8.5, a difference of about one year. That figure was 1.9 years in 2000.


More than 1 million women got off the illiteracy list in 2004. The goal set in The Women's Outline to raise literacy levels above 85 percent by 2010 was reached in 2003 when the education rate for adult women reached 87.20 percent.


Some 1,500 Chinese and foreigners attended the reception at the Great Hall of the People.


(China Daily March 8, 2006)

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