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Gender Gap, Discrimination for Women University Grads
China has been enlarging its university enrollment on a successive basis since 1999 with 2.12 million (including 800,000 women graduates) students graduating this year. However, prospects for young women graduates have not improved in proportion to the increase in their number and sex discrimination continues to be found everywhere in the job market.

Despite the sharp increase in graduates, there is no significant accompanying growth of need in human resources in China. By June 2001, 95 percent of the year’s post graduate students, 80 percent of undergraduates and 40 percent of graduates from 2-3 year vocational schools had found their first jobs. If the story that only 80 percent of graduates on average can secure a job upon graduation occurs again this year, about 630,000 graduates will face the grim reality of unemployment by July.

More than 400 companies offered 12,000 or so vacancies at two job fairs held in Beijing, attended by nearly 50,000 graduates last November. The ratio between jobs supplied and jobs sought was 1:5.

The ratio of young women college students has continued to rise as university enrolment has enlarged. The figure has increased from 39.75 percent to 41.07 percent in 2000, attaining 42.14 percent in 2001. However, graduate career prospects for young women have not been improving in proportion to their number increase.

A poll recently conducted by the Women’s Federation of the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu shows that 80 percent of those polled said that they had encountered sex discrimination in job seeking and 34.3 percent complained of repeated job refusals. Many pointed out that they had frequently witnessed unfair recruitment terms such as “male graduates only” or “male students enjoy priority in case of equal competence.” Some foreign invested companies disregard women employees’ interests and their labor contracts even include such harsh terms as “no birth for five years”. Facing high possibility of unemployment, many female graduates submit to these terms and sign contracts anyway.

Statistics from the Student Affairs Office under the Education Department of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province show that the province’s employment rates for women college graduates are commonly lower than those of male graduates. The province has almost 70,000 college graduates and 2-3 year vocational school graduates. Employment rates for the 11,402 male undergraduates and 9,896 female ones were 83.29 percent and 80.08 percent, respectively. Similar figures were 53 percent and 46.24 percent for the year’s 6.714 male vocational school graduates and 7,213 female ones, respectively. Overall employment rate for male graduates is nine percent higher than that of their female counterparts.

Another poll conducted by the Fujian Women’s Development Research Center affiliated with the Xiamen-based Xiamen University shows that more than two thirds of the 1,068 graduates of 1998 thought that sex discrimination against female students existed in the employment market and 87.8 percent of the women polled agreed with the idea. The poll also revealed that male students in general have 14 percent more job opportunities than their female counterparts.

Another result of the poll showed that employment qualities were not equal for both sexes. Eight point three percent of females polled ascribed the gap between the jobs they found and their career ideals to sex discrimination.

In addition, the expected salary index for male graduates was 11 percent above that of their female counterparts. According to the poll, 78.8 percent of the females polled -- 11.3 percent higher than the percentage among the males polled -- got contracted salaries below 3,000 yuan (US$362.88); and 64.8 percent -- 14 percent higher than the percentage among males polled -- got contracted salaries below 2,000 yuan (US$241.92).

The Research Institute for Population and Development under the Tianjin-based Nankai University has found in its investigations that more than half of the employers, including some government departments, public institutions and state-owned enterprises, claim the condition of “male only” in their recruitment for graduates and postgraduate applicants. Their claim results in young women students being excluded from the opportunity to participate in competition.

(China.org.cn by Chen Chao, April 22, 2003)

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