As Mao Zedong famously said, “women hold up half the sky.” International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to shine the light on China’s women, taking a macro look at the progress and challenges facing the country’s female population.
Here are five things you might not know about women in China:
Chinese women made up 57% of Hurun’s Richest Self-Made Women in the World 2019 list, followed by women from the US at 18% and the UK at 6%. Chinese women have been topping this list for years, and that doesn’t look ready to change anytime soon.
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In 2016 over half of tertiary graduates in China were women according to The World Bank, and in the following year the OECD found that an equal percentage of Chinese men and women aged 25-34 had a tertiary education. But what happens after graduation? Equality in pay is still far from the reality in China – a report by the World Economic Forum showed that Chinese women receive 36% less than men on average for the same type of work.
An Ipsos poll conducted last year on global misconceptions of equality found that 82% of Chinese people agree with the statement “Achieving equality between men and women is important to me, personally”, trailing only Peru in percentage. At the same time, the poll highlights a hesitancy toward discourse on issues like sexual discrimination and harassment in China.
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According to the International Labor Organization, 61% of Chinese women were participating in the labor force in 2018, but that percentage has been declining since before the ’90s. A report by the Asian Development Bank shows that reasons for the decline include a widened gender wage gap, lack of childcare options, diminished employment opportunities or women, and a resurgence of traditional stereotypes about women’s work.
The 2017 Impact of Women in the Workplace in a Digital Age report and 2015 statistics on Statista show that 41% of China’s GDP is contributed by women – a higher percentage than almost anywhere else in the world.
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