On Wednesday, the World Economic Forum released its Global Gender Gap Report 2017 with China placing 100th out of 144 countries and territories. That’s one spot down from last year and well below the world average.
After a decade of progress, the report found that the global parity gap across health, education, politics and the workplace is widening for the first time since the rankings began in 2006. At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap won’t be closed for 100 years — compared with 83 years last year — and the workplace gender gap not for 217 years.
Iceland remains the world’s most gender-equal country, followed by some other Northern European countries, as well as nations like Rwanda, Nicaragua and the Philippines. Meanwhile, six countries in the G20 rank at or below 100 on the list: China (100), India (108), Japan (114), South Korea (118), Turkey (131) and Saudi Arabia (138).
According to the report, China’s progress towards gender parity has slowed overall. While it has done will closing its gender gap in professional and technical roles and women’s tertiary enrollment, it has recorded a small decrease in wage equality for similar work and remains the world’s lowest-ranked country with regard to the gender gap in its sex ratio at birth thanks to policies that encourage sex-selective abortions and female infanticide when combined with a traditional preference for boys.
While China may have abolished its “one-child” policy in 2015, that policy was replaced by a “two-child” one which means that a woman’s body still remains in the domain of the state. In addition, the new population control policy has resulted in increased discrimination against women in the job market as employers prefer male workers who won’t take lengthy maternity leave.
Over the past few years, Chinese state media have increasingly campaigned for the virtue of “women returning home” and have tried to “educate” women on the importance of marriage and family. In 2015, a poster hanging on the wall of the Beijing marriage registration office sparked controversy online. It read: “Being a good wife and good mother is the biggest achievement of a woman.” In 2016, China’s official Xinhua news agency posted an article declaring that after the implementation of the “two-child” policy, women should be encouraged to return home to take care of the children. Meanwhile, those women who value their career over marriage and children are often mocked as “leftover women” who no one will want to marry.
While more women than ever before are pursuing higher education in China, they still must face discrimination and harassment from their male peers and professors. Last month, a Zhejiang University professor of sociology created a firestorm online with his remark that “History has proven that academia is not the domain of women.”
At the same time, China’s Communist Party is doing little to help close the gender gap at the highest levels of power. Despite Mao Zedong declaring that women “hold up half the sky,” only 10 of the 204 members of the new Communist Party Central Committee are women, the same number as five years ago. Once again, there are no women on the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s highest ruling council, and only one on the 25-member Politburo.
By Alex Tang
[Images via World Economic Forum]
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