II. Women and the Economy

The state has made the guarantee of equal employment opportunities between women and men and the sharing of economic resources and results of social development the top priority for the advancement of gender equality and the development of women, and has worked out and adopted a series of policies and measures to ensure that women can equally participate in the economic development, enjoy equal access to economic resources and effective services, enhance their self-development ability and improve their social and economic status.

Encouraging women to start business and become re-employed. Employment is the basis of people's livelihood and the basic economic resource that women rely on for subsistence. Over the past few years, the Chinese government has formulated and carried out supportive policies to encourage women to start businesses on their own initiative, and give them preferential treatment when granting employment training subsidies and small-sum guaranteed loans and conducting tax reduction and exemption. In the meantime, governments at all levels have adopted many favorable policies toward women, such as creating public-welfare jobs, opening employment service centers, sponsoring special recruitment activities and vocational training courses, monitoring sex discrimination against women in employment and help women, especially laid-off women, to find new jobs. With the support of the government, women's federations at various levels, trade unions and other NGOs have conducted their work regarding the employment and re-employment of women in a creative way. During the period from 1998 to 2003, women's federations nationwide endeavored to get small-sum credit loans to directly aid a total of 2.5 million women to get re-employed. Over the past decade, the number and ratio of women employed have remained fairly high. By the end of 2004, the number of both urban and rural women workers reached 337 million nationwide, accounting for 44.8 percent of the total employed; and the number of women workers in urban work units stood at 42.27 million, accounting for 38.1 percent of the national total.

Improving the employment structure of women. Over the past few years, the tertiary industry has become the main channel for providing jobs to women, and an increasing number of women are entering the computer, communications, finance and insurance and other high- and new-tech industries, thus becoming an important force in these fields. At present, women owners of small and medium-sized enterprises account for about 20 percent of the national total number of entrepreneurs, and 60 percent of them have emerged in the past decade. State organs, enterprises and public institutions have long pursued the principle of equality between men and women in terms of recruitment, training of professionals and technicians, as well as promotion in ranks and granting of professional titles to encourage women to display their abilities and come to the fore. By the end of 2004, women accounted for 43.6 percent of the total number of professionals and technicians in state-owned enterprises and institutions nationwide, up 6.3 percentage points over the 37.3 percent of 1995, among whom, the number of senior and intermediate-level women professionals and technicians rose from 20.1 percent and 33.4 percent to 30.5 percent and 42.0 percent, respectively.

Enhancing social security for urban women. In recent years, the Chinese government has stepped up the construction of a social security system, with pension insurance, unemployment insurance, medical insurance, employment injury insurance and maternity insurance as the main contents. It has also carried out significant reforms of the urban social relief system, and gradually established and improved three funds: minimum urban living guarantee fund, basic living guarantee for laid-off workers fund and unemployment guarantee fund. The Trial Measures for Maternity Insurance of Enterprise Employees the state promulgated in 1994 put maternity insurance, which used to be borne by employers, under overall social planning. By the end of 2004, the practice of overall social planning had been introduced in 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, with 43.84 million employees, or 60 percent of the total number of urban employees covered. In October 1999, the Regulations on the Minimum Standard of Living for Urban Residents went into effect. By the end of 2004, 22.05 million urban residents, including women, were receiving minimum subsistence allowances. All those who needed such help were by and large covered.

Giving full play to women's role in the rural economy. China is basically an agricultural country, and women account for more than 60 percent of the rural labor force and are a major force in farming activities. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Rural Land Contracting, which came into effect in 2003, states that women and men enjoy equal rights in contracting land in rural areas, and no organization or individual shall deprive women of the right to contract and operate land or infringe upon their right to do so. In recent years, the Chinese government has adopted active policies and measures to solve the problems concerning agriculture, rural areas and farmers, increased its input into agriculture, pushed forward tax reform in rural areas, and implemented the strategy of invigorating agriculture by applying science and technology. Government departments and women's federations at all levels have jointly organized activities to encourage rural women to acquire knowledge and learn science and technology, and compete in their development and contributions, so as to bring their role in invigorating and developing the rural economy into full play.

Safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of rural women working in cities. Over the past few years, the Chinese government has gradually reduced or eliminated the restrictive regulations on the employment of rural people in cities, and made great efforts to solve the problems of salaries in arrears, vocational safety, equal pay for equal work and social security for them so as to relieve rural migrant workers of anxieties regarding residence registration in cities and the schooling of their children, and actively protects the legitimate rights and interests of rural women working in cities. At the same time, the state also encourages and supports the building of training schools and legal aid centers, and the publication of typical cases of infringement as a means to raise awareness of their rights among migrant women workers and enhance their ability to safeguard their rights in accordance with the law.

To actively promote gender equality in employment and raise women's ability to find employment or start businesses, the Chinese government has begun to cooperate with the United Nations Development Program, International Labor Organization and other international organizations, with satisfactory results. At present, it is accelerating, proceeding from the national conditions of China, the process for the approval of the UN's Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention in China.