NPC deputies stress gender equality

Source: | 2022.03.08  

As the world marks International Women's Day on March 8, China is making moves to close the gender gap and strengthen the protection of women's rights in the workplace.

Ways to improve women's rights and ensure workplace gender equality are among the major topics on the agenda during China's political season underway in Beijing.

Gender inequality in the workplace is a universal problem, with women still far from equal with their male counterparts.

While Chinese women are said to "hold up half the sky," they also need more support in order to close the existing gender gap.

That's according to Zhu Shuchai, a deputy attending the fifth annual session of China's 13th National Peopel's Congress held in Beijing.

"Chinese women enjoy relatively higher social status compared with women in some other countries. That's why we always say 'women hold up half the sky.' Sometimes we may say we have already held up the whole sky, because we need to work while taking care of our partner and children. Women in fact face huge pressures, because there might be discrimination during job recruiting processes and everyday work."

She pointed out that China's laws and Constitution strictly prohibit employers from discriminating women from getting equal pay and equal treatment at work. She praises the laws that have made it illegal for companies to fire women who get married or fall pregnant and need to take a maternity leave.

However, she says more comprehensive measures and legislative reforms are needed.

Professor Xie Zengyi is the Deputy Director of the Institute of Law at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He specializes in labor laws and social laws.

He points out that some existing challenges and constraints may be addressed in the draft revision to the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women currently under review by the NPC Standing Committee.

"The revisions to the law mainly strengthen the protection of women's legitimate rights and interests in the labor market from three aspects. First, the definition of discrimination is clarified. For example, employers may not favor men, or ask women about their marital status when recruiting. Secondly, the draft has expanded the scope of protection to cover new employment forms like the Internet-based work. Women now could get more all-around protection. Also, the government is held responsible to oversee gender-based discriminatory practices. Female employees are entitled to seek help from the government in addition to filing a lawsuit."

With the draft law revision, labor law practitioners are also optimistic about the new proposals.

Dong Mei, a partner attorney with W&H Law Firm and a women's rights advocate, shares her thoughts after reviewing the proposals.

"The draft revision law has focused on Chapter Four, emphasizing on eliminating gender-based employment discrimination and standardizing employers' recruitment behaviors. For example, Article 35 in Chapter Four says employers should include information on gender equality in their annual reports. Information on female recruitment and the sex ratios of staff and management teams should be open to society for public supervision."

Both Dong and Professor Xie believe that China should further strengthen legislation and educate the public on the importance of gender equality to form a better protection mechanism for women.

Zhu Shuchai is confident that the NPC will further strengthen legislation to protect women's rights and ensure gender equality.