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China

Chinese Employers Discriminate Against Women Planning to Have Two Children


Late last year, China’s central government announced reforms to the controversial one-child policy—in particular, approving a resolution that would allow couples to have two children if at least one of the parents was an only child. But the change didn’t go into effect instantly; implementation is controlled locally. On Tuesday, Shanghai’s government approved measures to enact the so-called two-child policy, effective March 1. Shanghai is the seventh region in China to adopt guidelines for reforming, not abolishing, the country’s sprawling population-control bureaucracy.

To some extent, the number of children couples can have—and when they can have them—will vary by city. Shanghai’s policies are more liberal than Beijing’s, where new guidelines took hold last Friday. Shanghai parents qualified to have two children can do so regardless of their own ages or the time between births. But Beijing parents with one child must wait until the mother turns 28, or the first child turns 4, before having a second child, as independent newsmagazine Caijing reported.

China’s relaxed birth-control policies also bring unexpected consequences. According to state-run Global Times, some female job applicants are already facing increased hiring discrimination as potential employers appear reluctant to pay for two maternity leaves. “An interviewer asked me if I was going to have two children, and I did not know how to answer,” one young woman in Zhejiang province told the newspaper. “Having children is also making a contribution to society, but they [potential employers] treat us like enemies, which is so unfair.”

A hiring manager at a Hangzhou-based advertising company told Global Times that it had explicitly decided to hire fewer female copywriters. “It’s a small company, and we hire many young graduates,” said the HR manager. “If some of them choose to have more than one child, the risk will be too high to handle.”

Job advertisements in China frequently specify desired gender, age, and height—for occupations ranging from factory workers to flight attendants to office workers—opening the door to wide-ranging forms of discrimination.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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