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Employers discriminate over maternity-leave concerns

Reporter: Ge Yunfei 丨 CCTV.com

12-09-2016 12:49 BJT

It's job-seeking season for many Chinese college graduates now. But women looking for employment can face discrimination in the job market.

Maggie is an accountant working for a consultancy firm in Guangzhou in southern China’s Guangdong province.

She was frustrated with some of her job-hunting experiences before she landed this job.

"I had many job interviews after graduating from college. Some companies asked very personal questions like if I had a boyfriend or when I would get married. Some even said they preferred to hire men over women," she said.

Employers argue that they use this tactic for practical reasons. This year, many local governments in China extended maternity leave to five or six months.

"Companies have to bear most of the costs of the maternity leave. It's a great burden for small and medium enterprises like ours, especially when the whole economy is slowing," said Winky Ye, Human Resource Manager.

According to the All-China Women's Federation, over 85% of women faced prejudice when job-hunting. And that statistic makes Maggie more than a little angry.

“A friend of mine has had to hide her marital status to keep her job. Choosing to get married or have a baby is our legal right. Why should we have to hide our family situation? Why should I face prejudice for this?” she said.

Experts say the only solution is to ask father to take on more childcare responsibilities.

“Family obligations and responsibilities should be shared by men and women. It should not only be the jobs of women. Female employees are equally valuable and equally important to us as males," said Gao Yunsong, VP, Proctor & Gamble, Greater China.

“Common international practice is to promote paternity leaves, like in Scandinavia and the UN. It’s the only way to root out discrimination against women in the workplace,” said Ma Leijun, Senior Program Officer, United Nations Women.

Chairman Mao once said women can hold up half the sky. That's why in today's society, protection for women in the workplace and strict policies for employers are necessary.

Zhang Lei is an entrepreneur who started her own business in Beijing 17 years ago. Most of her employees are women and she has called for more preferential policies from the government.

"Like the US, China can also establish a similar procurement system to encourage more government purchases from those companies which reach a certain level of diversity," she said.

“When you have more women in your workforce and you can make more money, I think that’s key to telling everybody all companies should be diverse,” said Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, Executive Director, WEConnect International.

Experts say China is moving in the right direction but the pace could be a littler faster.

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