• Naomi Head

Beijing's new anti-sexism labour laws: 3 things you should know

Originally posted on 2 July 2019 for Time Out Beijing

Photo: Byron E. Schumaker/Wikimedia Commons

Things you cannot ask, or shouldn't have to answer with these new laws

In 1968, Chairman Mao famously said women hold up half the sky. And indeed they do: China today has one of the highest rates of female employment in the world.

However, according to Zhaopin.com’s survey of 130,000 Chinese women, around 80 percent have been discriminated against due to their gender, marital status or because of family planning.

Calls from citizens and various female-led organisations to change outdated regulations and systems have finally culminated in reform. On February 9, government bodies came together and created new policies to reduce gender discrimination. Titled ‘Notice on Further Strengthening Recruitment Management to Promote Women’s Employment’, it laid out regulations stating that gender should not be a requirement in the recruitment of employees. This summer the Beijing government will introduce fines for employers and recruiters who continue to discriminate against women.

The rules are a welcome change and will mean recruitment advertisements that commonly state ‘men preferred,’ or only ‘suitable for men,’ will become a thing of the past. This will also include job advertisements using female employees to entice male applicants, such as Alibaba’s infamous recruitment video which claimed female employees were ‘goddesses’ or ‘late night benefits’.

The new policies introduced by The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security hopes to reduce this kind of discrimination and harassment and safeguard jobs for women.

What does this mean for you as an employer or a job candidate?

1. Marital status

You can’t ask or need to answer any questions about your marital status. The only exception may be enquiring about a spouse. These questions will be a formality during onboarding with an international company, especially where the company provides insurance that may be inclusive of a spouse or dependents.

2. Pregnancy

Companies may not inquire about family planning. This does not include questions about dependents. It is likely questions regarding schooling or insurance will also be asked during the boarding process where an employer provides these services. Potential employees also won’t have to undergo pregnancy testing in their pre-employment physical (this is common for women entering positions in education, particularly in primary and early years education).

3. Maternity protection

Women cannot lose their jobs after falling pregnant, giving birth, during maternity leave or when returning to work. However, anyone undertaking a new position should be vigilant and check a contract for further details regarding the leave, salary and support offered by the employer, as well as clauses regarding grounds for dismissal.

It does remain unclear whether or not these topics will be removed from initial applications, but it would appear steps – however small – have been taken towards reducing gender bias. Some of the policies aren’t a revelation; nevertheless they are a huge step forward in a society where highly educated, successful women are still branded ‘leftover’ or at risk of losing out on their dream jobs because they lack a Y chromosome.

Naomi Head is a writer and media professional based in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has written for Time Out Beijing, Refresh Magazine, The Collective Mag and more. Find out more at naomihead.com.

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