Q: Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the status of women has greatly improved. A saying goes, "Women can hold up half the sky." Then, what is the proportion of women deputies in the National People's Congress (NPC) and female officials in government organs? Are Chinese women's rights in political participation, employment, education, health care, marriage and family effectively protected?
A: In recent years, the Chinese Government has made strenuous efforts to enhance the status of women and has achieved great results. China has signed and carried out a series of major international conventions and documents, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. As well, by formulating and implementing the Program for the Development of Chinese Women (2000-10), the state has integrated the objectives for the development of women in the national economic and social development plan, which has effectively protected women's rights in various aspects.
First, more and more women have become involved in the management of state and social affairs. Women make up 20.24 percent of all deputies of the NPC, the country's top legislature. Among China's state leaders, seven are women. There are 65 women among the ministerial-level officials in the institutions and agencies of the Central Government and mass organizations; and more than 5,000 women hold leading positions at all levels in China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government. Women have enhanced their awareness of political participation, with 73.4 percent of women taking part in elections of deputies to local people's congresses. The proportion of women deputies to people's congresses and female representatives in committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is kept quite stable, demonstrating that women have played an active role in politics.
Second, women's right to employment has been further safeguarded. There are more women than men involved in such industries as social services, education, culture and health care, and the proportion of women engaged in finance, insurance, scientific and technological research as well as government institutions and social organizations is approaching that of men. Moreover, more than 100 million rural women, with one or two agricultural skills and a higher awareness and ability to increase income through science and technology, are greatly contributing to the development of the rural economy by playing an active role in farming and aquaculture as well as in rural enterprises. In urban areas, women account for 37.9 percent of the total work force, small and medium-sized businesses set up by women are thriving, and rules on labor-safety protection for women employees have been further implemented. As a result, women now constitute nearly half of the country's work force.
Third, women's health has been greatly improved. Currently there are more than 1,400 health care institutions for women and children, providing health services for 86 percent of pregnant and lying-in women. About 79 percent of women have given birth in hospitals. The life expectancy of women has reached 73.6 years, 3.8 years more than men.
In China's 350 million families, women have begun to enjoy more personal and property rights, with an improved status in marriage and family. In urban areas, 85.8 percent of women under the age of 35 decide on marriage on their own, while in rural areas the proportion is 75.6 percent. As well, women have begun to play an increasingly important role in family decision-making. Most families, especially those in urban areas, are based on gender equality and democracy.
Women are always considered being able to hold up "half the sky" in the People's Republic. This picture, taken in 1952, shows the first group of female pilots in the country.