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'I Do' for Many Girls Means 'I Work'

With her mother acting as go-between, Ms Zhu, a third-year student in the philosophy department of Beijing Normal University, dated four different men over the summer holiday alone in hopes of finding her Mr Right.

"It is not easy to find a good job these days," said Ms Zhu, "so maybe it is better to find an established man and marry as soon as possible."

However, Xiao Wei, a 35-year-old woman from Beijing, thinks differently. Xiao, who worked in an overseas-financed company for 10 years, has been a full-time housewife for the past three years.

"In the beginning, I felt very pleased to be at home rearing my child without going to work, but as time goes by, I feel my everyday life is a bit empty," said Xiao. "Women should have their own careers."

Zhu and Xiao are not alone in questioning whether good husbands are worth more than good jobs, a question brought to the forefront again with the discussion of women's issues at the just-closed Ninth Chinese Women's National Congress.

A sample survey of women's positions in society, carried out among 19,000 people by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) and the National Bureau of Statistics in 2001, indicated that 34.1 per cent of the respondents held the opinion that "good husbands are better than good jobs."

A man surnamed Wang, an office worker with the ACWF, said that this accords with the point of view of most men.

"But none of my female colleagues agree. They are enterprising and independent, and hope to find a balance between career and family life," said Wang.

Wang Qi, general manager of the Qiyang Cultural Advertising Co Ltd, from Southwest China's Sichuan Province, suggested a third viewpoint, that good jobs and good husbands are of equal importance to women.

"Since it is hard for women to find jobs at the present time, some girls may first turn to marriage. But if women want to have equal rights with their husbands instead of being dependent, they must have their own careers," said the 32-year-old general manager.

Wang Shuxian, formerly ACWF deputy chairwoman, admitted that because of physiological factors and the traditional division of labour, women face greater pressure and challenges than men in finding employment. Therefore, she said, it's unfair to have women doing the same jobs as men without getting the same pay.

The former women's affairs official believes that the mere fact that the opinion "good husbands are better than good jobs" has been discussed extensively in recent years, actually shows there has been progress in Chinese society.

Before the founding of New China in 1949, there was absolutely no such question, and women seldom had the chance to go out to work and were fully dependent on their position in the family, said Wang Shuxian.

(Xinhua News Agency August 27, 2003)

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