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6 Promote gender equality and empower women
Where we are?
Promoting gender equality and women’s all-round development is not only vital to China’s development but, given China’s vast population, also significant for the progress of mankind. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to women’s development, makes gender equality a basic national policy and includes women’s development in its plans for national economic and social development. Along with its sustained economic growth and overall social progress, China has been doing better in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men. The Chinese government considers justice and equity including gender equality as an important part of a harmonious society. It has formulated various economic, legal, administrative and publicity measures to guarantee that women enjoy equal political, economic, cultural and social rights, as well as rights in family life. It consistently promotes the all-round development of women.
Since 1995, China has formulated and implemented three rounds of the Programme for the Development of Chinese Women. As the national action plan to promote the development of women, the programme is designed to promote women’s full development and to protect their rights in terms of health, education, economy, participation in decision-making and management, social security, environment, laws, etc. It has further incorporated gender awareness into the legal and policy system, and improved the level of women’s social security. It has enhanced women's political participation and further raised their sense of social participation. It has steadily improved women’s educational level and narrowed the education gap between men and women. It has notably improved women's health and further lengthened their life expectancy. It has promoted the development of relevant legislation and their enforcement to further protect women’s rights and interests. It has made the basic national policy of gender equality, further improved the social environment for women’s development, and promoted the harmonious development of men and women.
China has basically met the target of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education. In 2012, there were 21.9248 million female students in senior secondary schools, accounting for 47.64 percent of the total, and there were 22.7263 million female students in junior secondary schools, accounting for 47.09 percent of the total. The differences are mainly owing to the unbalanced sex ratio at birth in China. According to China Statistical Yearbook 2005 released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the sex ratio in the 5–9 age group was as high as 119.10:100 at the end of 2004, significantly higher than the ratio of 103.45:100 among the whole population.
The government has instituted a series of projects to help girls. These include the Spring Bud Plan, which helps girls who have dropped out of school to continue with their education and to maximize their wellbeing. At the end of 2012, the Spring Bud Plan had helped 2.3 million poor girls to continue schooling and provided practical and technical training for more than 400,000 girls. China also has a programme to bring Family Education to adolescent girls, led by the All-China Women’s Federation. The programme has been launched in 20 major cities across the country. More than 7 million copies of educational materials and 60,000 computer discs were distributed for free, more than 50,000 sessions of mobile classes were organized, and 156 practical learning bases were established, directly benefitting 12 million households with girls. Another problem the government has been working on is the high sex ratio at birth. Through years of efforts, the upward trend of the ratio has been curbed.
Nevertheless, China continues to suffer from problems of violence against women. Greater attention and more effective actions are needed to eliminate it. At present, China is in the process of promulgating a national family violence law to protect women, children and the elderly. More efforts should be made to further prohibit sexual harassment in workplaces. Trafficking of women still exists. In recent years, the public security organs of China have conducted a series of special campaigns to combat the trafficking of women and children, established transit, training and rehabilitation centres for rescued women and children, and achieved remarkable results. Nonetheless, to fundamentally resolve this problem is still quite difficult.
There is still discrimination in the workplace, based on gender, age and region. Elderly laid-off women are unlikely to be reemployed, while female college graduates and young women face more difficulties than their male peers in getting employed. Attention should also be paid to the issue of women having an earlier retirement age than men.
The sex ratio at birth remains unbalanced. This can be achieved by optimizing the social and economic measures to help reduce the reliance on sons to support the elderly, and by improving the legal system in order to prevent selective abortions for non-medical purposes. There is also a problem with left-behind women – more than 47 million women and 61 million children are left behind in rural areas. A family’s traditional functions in production, marriage, provision for the aged and other aspects have weakened and the ability to resist risks has decreased.
Considering the low representation of women in decision-making and management groups at all levels, more endeavours should be made to break the glass ceiling, which impedes women’s professional development, and to formulate family-friendly policies so that gender equality can be effectively promoted across society.
Targets for MDG3
- Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
- Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
- Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
- Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament