IV. Protection of the Rights
of Women and Children
In old China, women did not have any right at all to participate in public affairs. But since the establishment of the PRC in 1949, women's right to participate in the administration of state and social affairs has been protected according to law, with the level of their involvement in public affairs rising constantly. When the First NPC was held in 1954, women deputies only accounted for 11.9 percent of the total, while in 1998, when the Ninth NPC was convened, women deputies numbered 650, constituting 21.81 percent of the total. Women made up 6.6 percent of the total members of the First National Committee of the CPPCC. At the Ninth National Committee of the CPPCC, women accounted for 341 of the total members, making up 15.54 percent of the aggregate number. The 15th National Congress of the CPC had 344 women delegates, constituting 16.8 percent of the total. Currently, four of the state leaders are women, and 18 women serve as ministers and vice-ministers in charge of various ministries and commissions under the State Council. The Party and government leading bodies of the country's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities all have women officials, with their number rising by 46.47 percent over that five years ago. By the end of 1997, women made up 13.838 million of the government staff members and managerial, professional and technical personnel of state-owned enterprises and institutions, accounting for 34.4 percent of the total.
In old China, women had few employment opportunities. Today, women enjoy equal rights with men to work, as well as the right to acquire equal pay for equal work and special labor protection. In 1949, there were only 600,000 women workers and staff members in China, accounting for 7.5 percent of the total workforce. In 1998, women employees numbered 340.67 million, 568 times the 1949 figure and 48.7 percent of the total employees, higher than the world's 34.5 percent rate. Of the 450 million rural laborers in China, 320 million, or 71 percent, are engaged in agricultural production, of whom, 210 million are women, making up 65.6 percent of the total. There are only five countries in the world, where women's salaries equal 80 percent or more of men's, while the income of Chinese women is equivalent to 80.4 percent of that of their male counterparts. Women employees enjoy special care during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation periods, and child-bearing women employees enjoy a three-month paid maternity leave.
In old China, 90 percent of women were illiterate, whereas in 1997, the female illiteracy rate dropped to 23.2 percent, with the illiteracy rate for young and middle-aged women down to 8.5 percent. In 1998, the primary school attendance rate for girls across the country rose from 15 percent in 1949 to 98.86 percent, basically guaranteeing the right of girls to receive compulsory education. Since 1990, the gap between the school attendance rates for boys and girls has narrowed from 1.28 percentage points to 0.1 percentage point. By 1998, Chinese women had received 6.5 years of education on average. The proportion of women students in regular institutions of higher learning rose from 19.8 percent in 1949 to 38.3 percent in 1998. The proportion of girl students in junior middle schools increased from 26.5 percent in 1950 to 46.5 percent in 1998, and that of girls in primary schools grew from 28 percent in 1951 to 47.6 percent in 1998. By the end of 1998, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering had a total of 62 women academicians, accounting for 6 percent of the total, higher than the rate in any other country.
The physical conditions of women have greatly improved. In 1949, China had only nine maternity and child care centers, with limited numbers of beds and medical workers. But in 1998, there were 514 maternity and child care hospitals and hospitals for gynecology and obstetrics, with 87,000 beds and 82,000 medical personnel, and 2,724 health care centers for women and children, with 88,000 medical personnel. A national health care network for women and children has been initially formed. During the early years of the People's Republic, due to poor health care conditions, old methods prevailed in deliveries, and the mortality for pregnant and lying-in women was as high as 1,500 per 100,000. By 1998, China had 47 hospitals for gynecology and obstetrics, with 108,634 gynecologists and obstetricians trained in Western medicine. The number of midwives rose from 13,900 in 1949 to 48,696 in 1998, and that of rural midwives exceeded 310,000. Some 66.8 percent of women gave birth in hospital, modern methods were adopted for 94.5 percent of deliveries in rural areas, and the mortality of pregnant and lying-in women dropped to 56.2 per 100,000. The average life expectancy of Chinese women rose from 36 years in 1949 to 73.2 years in 1997. This is 4.5 years higher than the figure for men and eight years higher than the average life expectancy of 65 years set as a goal by the United Nations for women all over the world by the year 2000.
China has adopted practical measures to develop hygienic and health care undertakings for children, protecting the life and health of children. In 1949, there were only five children's hospitals in China, with 139 beds. By 1998, children's hospitals numbered 37 throughout the country, with 9,808 beds and 60,446 pediatricians trained in Western medicine. In addition, more than 15,000 hospitals at or above the county level had set up departments of gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics. The incidence of tetanus among the newborn dropped to 0.27 per thousand. Infant mortality declined from 200 per thousand in the early years of New China to 33.2 per thousand in 1998, and the mortality of children under the age of five was down to 42 per thousand. Meanwhile, the physical conditions of children have improved noticeably. In 1997, the mortality rate of children under five caused by diarrhea had fallen by 67.8 percent compared with that in 1991, and that caused by pneumonia was down 44.6 percent. The incidence and mortality of measles for Chinese children had dropped by 98.1 percent and 99 percent, respectively, from the figures for 1978. When implementing the universal immunity program for one-year-old children in 1997, 96 percent of children were inoculated with BCG vaccine, 96 percent were inoculated against whooping cough, diphtheritis and tetanus, 97 percent against polio, and 95 percent against measles.
Early education for children has improved rapidly in China. In 1990, only 32 percent of children from three to six years old entered kindergartens, while by the end of 1998, China had had 180,000 kindergartens with an enrolment of 24 million and about 70 percent of children attend kindergartens for one year before they go to school. A sample survey shows that 94.8 percent of new pupils in grade one of primary schools across the country have received preschool education.