V. Employment of Women, Youth and Disabled People

The Chinese government has always been highly concerned about and placed great importance on the employment of women, youth and disabled people, providing legal guarantees for equal employment for men and women, and actively adopting preferential policies for protecting employment of the disabled.

Guaranteeing women's right to equal employment

The Constitution of the PRC, the Labor Law of the PRC, and the Law of the PRC on Safeguarding Women's Rights and Interests all contain special provisions for safeguarding women's right to employment. The state protects women's equal right with men to work, eliminates sexual discrimination in employment, adopts the principle of equal pay for equal work for both sexes, and guarantees special labor protection for women employees during menstruation, pregnancy, confinement and nursing.

In May 2001, the Chinese government promulgated "The Program for the Development of Chinese Women (2001-2010)," which set the goal of promoting women's employment. With the country's sustained, rapid economic growth, and the development of industries and trades suitable for women's employment, the female population in employment has continuously grown, and the fields of employment for them have kept expanding. The female population in employment in China's urban and rural areas increased from 291 million in 1990 to 337 million in 2003.

Today, there are 41.56 million women employees in urban units, accounting for 38 percent of the total employees in urban units. As the Chinese government pushes ahead with the reform of the economic system and the readjustment of the economic structure, a number of women workers have been laid off. To support the reemployment of laid-off women, especially older women, governments at all levels have actively developed and expanded trades and fields suitable for women to work in, and have adopted more flexible forms of employment to provide them with job opportunities according to their needs.

Government-run public job agencies provide laid-off and unemployed women gratis with consultancy on policy matters, job vacancy information, vocational guidance and job referral services, and actively carry out vocational skill training for them. From 1998 to 2003, of a total of 13.36 million laid-off and unemployed women, 9.72 million started their own businesses or found new jobs.

The government supports women's federations in their work of helping women to start their own businesses or get reemployed. From 1998 to 2003, women's federations at various levels held training sessions for 5.8 million laid-off or unemployed women, and directly helped 2.5 million women to find new jobs. The government has established a maternity insurance scheme, with the premiums paid for by enterprises, instead of individual employees. This has created a favorable environment for women to participate equally in competition for employment.

Promoting the employment of young people

China has a large young population. Every year, a million-strong new workforce arises, making young people's employment an increasingly striking problem. Of the registered unemployed people in urban areas, around 70 percent are under the age of 35. To reduce the employment pressure on society, and improve young workers' skills and overall quality, the Chinese government provides one to three years of work preparation for all junior and senior middle school graduates who have failed to enter schools at higher levels.

Vocational guidance is offered in various secondary vocational schools as a required course. At the same time, with a view to promoting full employment for graduates, much has been done to provide them with vocational guidance, employment services and education in starting businesses.

To solve the employment problem of graduates from institutions of higher learning, the Chinese government has adopted measures to promote their employment. These mainly include: in pursuance of the reform oriented toward market guidance, government regulation, school recommendation, and the two-way choice of students and employers, to encourage graduates from institutions of higher learning to go and work at grassroots levels and in areas with tough conditions to strengthen urban communities and rural townships; to urge enterprises and institutions, especially small and medium enterprises and private enterprises and institutions, to hire graduates from institutions of higher learning; to encourage graduates from institutions of higher learning to start their own businesses or to get employment in a flexible way, while offering them tax breaks, small loans and training in starting businesses; to establish and improve employment information networks for graduates from institutions of higher learning and to do a better job in employment guidance and services.

Meanwhile, guidance is given to institutions of higher learning to readjust their structure of specialities and structure of talent training according to market demand. In 2003, the government launched the project of vocational qualification training for graduates from higher vocational institutions, and pooled quality resources of vocational skill training to provide training and services for graduates from such institutions who have not yet found jobs, thus creating the conditions for the graduates to find employment by themselves.

In Shanghai and some other places, a youth probation program has been implemented, and in line with the principle of "government compensation, public assistance and voluntary participation by enterprises," probation bases for graduates from institutions of higher learning are established in enterprises with the necessary conditions, and graduates who have not found jobs are organized to improve their abilities in practice and enhance their adaptability to their future jobs.

Helping disabled people to find employment

There are 60 million disabled people in China, accounting for about 5 percent of its total population. Among them 24 million are of working age. Since the reform and opening-up started over 20 years ago, China has brought into full play the guiding role of the government and general public in promoting the employment of disabled people, and made great efforts to create a favorable environment for disabled people to equally participate in social life.

According to China's laws, the state guarantees disabled people's right to work. The government makes overall plans for the employment of the disabled and creates conditions for this purpose. To guarantee disabled people's legitimate right to employment, the government has strengthened supervision and law enforcement, so as to find out and correct in time any employers' infringement of the disabled people's legitimate rights and interests in violation of the law and relevant regulations.

In line with the principle of combining group and individual employment, China adopts preferential policies as well as supportive and protective measures to promote the employment of disabled people through various channels, at various levels and in various forms.

By group employment, it means that the state and the public arrange for the employment of groups of disabled people by running welfare enterprises, recuperation-through-work organizations, massage cure services, and other welfare undertakings. The government encourages the development of welfare enterprises with preferential policies, such as tax reduction and exemption, to enable more disabled people to find employment.

By individual employment, it means that employing units hire a certain number of disabled people for suitable posts in proportion to their size of staff. Units with disabled employees fewer than the required proportion must pay into an insurance fund for the employment of disabled people.

The state has also adopted various preferential policies and supporting measures to encourage self-employment by disabled people in both urban and rural areas and, by way of granting discount-interest, poverty-alleviation loans, helped impoverished disabled people with the ability to work to set up their own businesses or start projects that can increase their incomes.

Meanwhile, the government and social organizations actively offer employment services to disabled people, providing them with free vocational guidance, job referral and vocational training. By the end of 2003, 4.031 million disabled people in urban areas throughout China had found employment, among whom 1.091 million are employed in groups, 1.236 million are employed individually and 1.704 million are self-employed. In rural areas, 16.852 million disabled people are in employment. The employment rate of the disabled overall is 83.9 percent.