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China: Measures Prohibiting Hiring Discrimination Against Women Issued

(Mar. 15, 2019) On February 21, 2019, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) published on its website the Circular on Further Regulating Recruitment Activities to Promote Equal Employment for Women. The Circular was jointly issued by the MOHRSS, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme People’s Court, and several other central government authorities on February 18, 2019. (Circular of Nine Departments Including the MOHRSS and the Ministry of Education on Further Regulating Recruitment Activities to Promote Equal Employment for Women (Feb. 18, 2019), MOHRSS website (in Chinese).)

The Circular prohibits discriminatory practices in hiring female candidates, including

  • specifying a gender requirement or gender priority in hiring advertisements, except for jobs prohibited to female workers by the state,
  • restricting or rejecting female applicants on the basis of gender,
  • asking female applicants about their marriage and childbirth status,
  • including a pregnancy test in the entry medical examination,
  • restricting childbirth as a condition of employment, and
  • raising qualifying standards only on female applicants. (Id. art. 2.)

According to the Circular, if employers or human resource agencies are found to have posted job advertisements containing discriminatory content, the authorities may order them to correct such discriminatory advertisements. Failure to correct the advertisements as ordered is punishable by a maximum fine of 50,000 renminbi yuan (about US$7,450). (Id. art. 3.)

In 2018, nearly one in five jobs in China were reportedly advertised as “men only” or “men preferred.” Gender equality is written in Chinese laws and even enshrined in the Constitution, while in reality enforcement of the law is weak. (Dorcas Wong, Chinese Employers Banned from Asking Women About Marriage and Children, CHINA BRIEFING (Mar. 7, 2019).) The China Briefing article argues that this recruitment bias is rooted both in gender stereotypes and in the perceived costs of meeting the legal entitlements available to women. In China, female workers are entitled to 98 days of paid maternity leave for childbirth, according to a female labor protection regulation promulgated by the State Council in 2012. Provinces may further extend the leave, typically by 30 to 60 days. (Id.; Laney Zhang, China: Maternity Leave Extended from 90 Days to 98 Days, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 18, 2012); Laney Zhang, China: Maternity Leave Further Extended by Provinces, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (May 3, 2016).)

The Circular also claims to provide increased support to female workers, including promoting the development of daycare services for infants and toddlers under three years old and improving after-school services for elementary-school and middle-school students. (Circular art. 6.)