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Programs to Help Laid-off Women
The All-China Women's Federation has vowed to help re-employ more laid-off women workers through micro-credit loans and special training projects.

"The federation will enhance its cooperation with local governments to encourage more financial groups, non-governmental organizations and private investors to get involved in the re-employment program for laid-off women workers," said Peng Peiyun, president of the federation, at the opening ceremony Sunday of a two-day national forum on the employment of women.

"For those employing a certain number of laid-off women, local authorities can help them benefit from preferential policies within the framework stipulated by the central government," added Peng.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security promised earlier this year to institute preferential policies such as complete operation tax waivers for enterprises employing a "considerable" number of laid-off workers and for enterprises established by laid-off workers.

More Chinese women work today than at the beginning of the 1980s. Working women now account for more than 45 percent of the female population.

But women are fast becoming the group most sensitive to the "tense" employment situation in China, according to Peng.

Evidence of this is the fact that only 39 percent of laid-off women workers have ever been re-employed, 24.9 percentage points lower than the figure for laid-off men.

"For most women, this means they cannot afford to lose their jobs," said Peng. "But most employers tend to discharge a woman rather than a man, if someone has to be discharged."

More women are refusing to live with the discrimination, and are choosing to prove themselves with hard work and wisdom.

Federation statistics indicate a more aggressive attitude from women regarding job searches. For example, 43.3 percent of urban women who have jobs are assigned to the work by labor authorities, 15.1 percentage points lower than in 1990.

As many as 14.3 percent of employed urban women secured their jobs through systematic job hunts, 3 percentage points higher than men.

In addition, 21.4 percent of employed urban women are working in their own enterprises, compared with 21.7 percent of men.

Against such a backdrop, Peng said she believes the federation's plan to spread its successful pilot small-loan program beyond Tianjin will be successful.

Started in 1999 and involving US$900,000, the project has helped over 6,000 laid-off women workers find new jobs and pulled 2,100 such women above the poverty line, according to Wang Zhiqiu, president of the Tianjin Women's Federation.

(China Daily December 16, 2002)

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