Pay gap still wide be­tween men and women de­spite im­prove­ments

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By YANG YAO yangyao@chi­

“Women hold up half the sky” is a procla­ma­tion made by Mao Ze­dong in 1968. It is widely held, in the East and the West, that rais­ing women’s so­cial sta­tus was one of Mao’s lega­cies left for China.

Af­ter al­most half a cen­tury, gen­der gap in earn­ing is still shock­ing de­spite the im­prove­ment of women’s sta­tus in gen­eral.

Ac­cord­ing to three na­tional sur­veys by the Na­tional Statis­tics Bureau, eco­nomic in­equal­ity be­tween men and women has grown in the last two decades.

Sur­veys show that in 1990, the an­nual in­come of fe­male ur­ban dwellers was about 77.5 per­cent of that of their male coun­ter­parts. The ra­tio de­clined to 70 per­cent in 1999 and 67.3 per­cent in 2010.

The sit­u­a­tion in ru­ral ar­eas is worse. The ra­tio was about 79 per­cent in 1999, but in 2010, it dropped to 56 per­cent.

“More ef­forts are needed to give women more op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­sources, to im­prove their abil­i­ties in ad­min­is­ter­ing na­tional and so­cial af­fairs, and to help them play a more im­por­tant role in cul­tural devel­op­ment,” Song Xi­uyan, vice-pres­i­dent of the All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion, said at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 11th Na­tional Women’s Congress in 2013.

The congress, which is held once ev­ery five years, was ex­pected to draw up a blue­print for the eco­nomic ad­vance­ment of Chi­nese women in the next five years.

“We will try our best to pro­mote gen­der main­stream­ing in the pol­i­cy­mak­ing process,” she said. Gen­der equal­ity

Though pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity was writ­ten into the Party’s ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­gram at the 18th CPC Na­tional Congress in 2012, the ever-widen­ing in­come gap re­mains a prob­lem.

Male–fe­male in­come dif­fer­ence ex­ists not only in China.

Ac­cord­ing to the United States Cen­sus Bureau, in 2010 the me­dian in­come of FTYR (full-time, year­round) work­ers was $42,800 for men, com­pared to $34,700 for women. The fe­male-to-male earn­ings ra­tio was 0.81, slightly higher than the 2008 ra­tio.

In a women’s con­fer­ence in Sil­i­con Val­ley, For­mer US Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton lamented the pay gap be­tween men and women in Fe­bru­ary and said that she may make gen­der in­equal­ity a main theme in her likely 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid.

Yang Jingfei, an ac­coun­tant in Shang­hai, is a 28-year-old woman who has worked for six years. She got preg­nant last Novem­ber.

“My health sit­u­a­tion, that I face great risks of mis­car­riage, does not al­low me to burn the night oils at work like be­fore, and I phys­i­cally can’t go on busi­ness trips. All th­ese make it harder for me to get bet­ter pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties — I get less bonus, lost a pro­mo­tion chance,” she said.

“My hus­band whom I met at col­lege was not a bet­ter stu­dent as I was, but he has ad­vanced so much in his ca­reer. I feel this is a gen­eral path for women, fam­ily be­comes the first for us when we get to a cer­tain age.”

Zhou Haibin, an of­fi­cial with the In­ter­na­tional La­bor Or­ga­ni­za­tion, said in an in­ter­view that there are many rea­sons re­sult­ing in gen­der in­equal­ity, one of them is dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“The idea that men are the bread­win­ners and women are in charge of do­mes­tic af­fairs is more or less en­trenched in peo­ple’s minds, lead­ing to in­equal­ity in em­ploy­ment, pro­mo­tion and in­come,” said Zhou. “The fact that women take greater re­spon­si­bil­ity in bear­ing, giv­ing birth to and rais­ing kids than men gives em­ploy­ers the pref­er­ence to hire men or to give men higher wages and more pro­mo­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties. In this sense, women need strong sup­port net­works to tough things out,” he said. Lean­ing for­ward

In the pri­vate sec­tors and so­ci­ety, there have al­ready been many pro­grams help­ing women go through the process.

Song Bing, man­ag­ing direc­tor at Gold­man Sachs Asia Pa­cific Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice and gen­eral manager and legal rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Gold­man Sachs Gao­hua Se­cu­ri­ties Com­pany, said in a panel in Bei­jing on March 5 that her com­pany has pro­grams hir­ing women who take breaks in their ca­reer due to ma­ter­nity leaves.

“We would give this group of peo­ple a two-year tran­si­tion,” she said. “I know that it is not easy for a woman to be a wife, a mother, and also a pro­fes­sional. I’ve been through all th­ese and I know how im­por­tant it is to get sup­port from your part­ner, fam­ily and so­ci­ety.”

The panel, which is hosted by the Amer­i­can Cen­ter in Bei­jing, was in­tended to get women to­gether and dis­cuss about life-work bal­ance.

“There are many life-work bal­ance talks like this for women, very zero for men,” the mod­er­a­tor said in a hu­mor­ous way.

In­spired by Face­book Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Sh­eryl Sand­berg’s book, LeanIn:Women,WorkandtheWill toLead, a group of fe­male pro­fes­sion­als in Bei­jing are or­ga­niz­ing regular seminars and net­work­ing events to help other women in the work­force learn new skills and en­cour­age self­growth.

One of the or­ga­niz­ers Char­lotte Han, 27, said that the meet­ings are an ef­fec­tive way to ac­quire so­cial re­sources as par­tic­i­pants are all open, shar­ing and help­ful.

“It helps me to see things out of the box. It is a sup­port net­work out­side of the work­place and fam­ily,” she said. “I also have ac­cess to a ca­reer men­tor.”

For women who start their own busi­nesses, they also face great chal­lenges.

China’s fe­male en­trepreneurs need to cre­ate net­works to dis­cover new op­por­tu­ni­ties and mar­kets, and im­prove their ca­pa­bil­i­ties, said Liu Ting, pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese Women’s Cham­ber of Com­merce.

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