In our current global environment, where economies have improved greatly to the point of reaching a period of relative social stability and prosperity, social equality is now being universally promoted. There are, however, certain issues like gender inequality that are yet to be solved. Since this phenomenon has a profound impact on both the formation of Chinese domestic culture and modern societal structures, I would like to analyze the reasons behind gender inequality in China, which I primarily attribute to traditional values held by Chinese society.
China is ranked as high as 36th in the 2017 United Nations Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index. This rise through the ranks is mostly attributed to China’s Economic Reform in 1978. Despite the data, females in China still face gender discrimination across a variety of scenarios. Since the enforcement of the one-child policy in 1979, sex-selective abortions have been increasingly chosen by Chinese parents. According to Zhu‘s research in 2008, with the rise of ultrasounds, couples that preferred male babies were able to abort female fetuses. Consequently, China’s male-female ratio has been increasing at an alarming rate, leading to issues like male reluctance to marry due to the added financial pressure resulting from a lack of female partners.
Gender population disparity is deeply rooted in Chinese history. To explain this, cultural factors need to be taken into account. Confucianism, as the predominant system of Chinese culture and values, favors a society based on hierarchy, in which men were entitled with superior social identities and recognition in relation to females. According to the wisdom of Confucius, women were subordinate to men, so marriages represented the departure of daughters from their families. Therefore, the destined change of identity meant that daughters only belonged to their family very briefly, whereas sons had permanent affiliation to their families and were obliged to carry on family lines. Hence, due to the higher social positions and family continuation, families were more inclined to bear sons than daughters.
In addition, occupational gender inequality is prevalent in Chinese workplaces. Sexism, whether implicit or explicit, occurs in labor recruitment. According to Statista, in 2017, 76.1% of the labor force are employed, whereas the female labor force has a participation rate of 61.5%. Moreover, China Daily’s Jiang Chenglong has shown in his report in March 2018, that a gender pay gap of 22% exists in China’s labor market. While male employees obtain an average monthly income of 8,006 yuan, their female counterparts earn 6,589 yuan.
The direct cause for this is inadequate education received by women compared to men. Despite the government’s ongoing implementation of compulsory education, the gender disparity in education is tremendous. In urban areas in China, where the situation is the worst, it has been reported that up to the first decade of the 21st century, in rural China, women have had an illiteracy rate twice as much as males’. This stratification originates from the conventional acknowledgement of women as the weak ones in the society, and Confucians’ advocated patriarchal family, in which women care for household duties, while men are seen as providers.