Gender Equality and Women’s Development in China
September 2015, Beijing
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China
I. The Institutional Foundation for Gender Equality and Women’s Development
II. Women and the Economy
III. Women and Education
IV. Women and Health
V. Women and Decision Making
VI. Women and the Environment
VII. Legal Guarantees for Gender Equality and Women’s Development
VIII. International Exchanges and Cooperation in Gender Equality and Women’s Development
Gender equality and women’s development is a lasting theme of mankind’s pursuit of equality and justice, a scale for measuring social progress and an important goal in realizing sustainable development in our world.
China has always upheld the constitutional principle of equality between men and women, which is also a basic state policy for promoting progress in the country and in society. Over the years China has progressively improved its laws and regulations, developed public policies, worked out development plans and pressed forward steadily with gender equality and women’s development.
Twenty years ago, the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing. On its anniversary two decades later, the Chinese government is publishing this white paper to provide a comprehensive overview of China’s policies on gender equality and women’s development, as well as unremitting efforts made and measures implemented in this regard.
Chinese women make up one fifth of the world’s total female population. Gender equality and women’s development in China not only give expression to China’s own progress, but also constitute a historical contribution made to global equality, development and peace.
I. The Institutional Foundation for Gender Equality and Women’s Development
China’s national mechanism for promoting the status of women, fully utilizing government resources and effectively mobilizing social resources, lays an important foundation for promoting gender equality and women’s development. Over the past two decades, the mechanism has been constantly improved to allow it to play an increasingly prominent role.
The state has kept improving government organs for promoting the status of women. In 1990, the State Council established the National Working Committee on Children and Women (NWCCW), which has been commissioned the responsibilities to organize, coordinate, guide, supervise and urge departments concerned in promoting gender equality and women’s development. Composed of leading ministerial-level members from relevant government organs, the Committee is chaired by a member of the State Council leadership. Over the previous 20 years, the Committee has expanded its member units from 19 to 35, now including government organs such as the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Ministry of Agriculture, and the National Health and Family Planning Commission, in addition to six mass organizations. The Committee has a general office doing day-to-day work by full-time staff with specially allocated funds. Relevant organizations have been set up under people’s governments above the county level in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, forming a multi-dimensional and well-coordinated network for promoting gender equality and women’s development.
The state has developed and implemented national plans and programs for promoting women’s development. Women’s development was included in China’s 10th, 11th and 12th five-year plans for economic and social development, each time with greater emphasis, clearer goals, and more effective measures for promoting coordinated development between Chinese women and China’s economy and society. The State Council has issued three programs covering different periods for the development of Chinese women, clearly defining the overall goals, key areas and policies and measures to be adopted for women’s development at different stages. People’s governments at and above the county level in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have worked out similar programs for women’s development for areas within their respective jurisdiction, thus forming a top-down framework for promoting women’s development at all levels. Adopting the target management responsibility system, the working committees on children and women at various levels resolve and allocate the main targets to the related functional departments of the governments and see to it that they are included in corresponding plans and implemented. They also established an appraisal system and carried out assessments of the implementation results of the programs at the end of every year, and in the middle and at the end of the implementation of the programs, ensuring that the targets set in these programs were met as scheduled.
The state has established a working mechanism featuring leadership by the government, multi-departmental cooperation and participation of the whole of society. The State Council and local governments at various levels hold working meetings on children and women on a regular basis to discuss and make plans. Every year, the State Council and local working committees on children and women hold special meetings to hear reports from all their member units, analyze progress made in the implementation of the current program for women’s development, and work out measures to address matters of pressing concern for the smooth implementation of the program. Guidance has been given to local governments in actively exploring the establishment of an assessment system of laws and policies related to gender equality, so as to provide at the source a solid institutional guarantee for promoting gender equality and women’s development. The state supports the women’s federation organizations in representing and safeguarding women’s rights and promoting gender equality. As the organizational system of women’s federations is better established, it has been playing an increasingly prominent role in conducting theoretical studies and carrying out publicity, education and training programs in relation to gender equality.
The state has gradually improved the gender statistics system. A comprehensive statistics system has been established on women’s development and it has been included in the routine statistics and statistical surveys undertaken by the state and relevant departments, and women’s health, well-being and development indicators and gender-disaggregated indicators have been standardized and improved. The state has gradually established a monitoring system for women’s conditions at the national and provincial (autonomous region, municipal) levels, worked out a statistical monitoring and indicator system, and established a system in which local governments and relevant departments produce comprehensive statistical reports and submit reports for review on a regular basis. In 1990, 2000 and 2010, China carried out three surveys, which fully and objectively reflected the conditions and changes in Chinese women’s social status, providing valuable reference for the government to formulate policies and measures to promote women’s development and gender equality. The state published Women and Men in Chinese Society – Facts and Statistics in 1995, and updated it with new data in 1999, 2004, 2007 and 2012; and has published annual releases of Statistics on the Status of Chinese Women and Children since 2008.
II. Women and the Economy
Equal participation in economic activities and equitable access to economic resources are the basic conditions for the well-being and development of women. While pressing forward with a strategic adjustment of its economic structure and reform and innovation of its growth model, China fully protects the economic interests of women, promoting women’s equal participation in economic development and equal access to the fruits of reform and development.
Significant progress has been made in alleviating poverty among women. During the implementation of comprehensive poverty reduction strategies, China has given overall consideration to the impact of urbanization, aging, climate change and other social and market factors on poverty among women, and strengthened efforts to address such poverty. China has implemented a program for poverty alleviation through development in rural areas, making women a key focus of attention and giving priority to poverty alleviation projects for women when all other conditions are equal, striving to improve the development capacity of women and bringing more benefits to them as a group. The number of impoverished women has dropped by an enormous margin, and the severity of poverty of women has been continuously alleviated. In the 592 poorest counties which are made the main targets of national poverty alleviation and development work, the poverty rate of the female population decreased from 20.3 percent in 2005 to 9.8 percent in 2010. The state has established a new-model social relief system, increasing efforts to protect impoverished women. In 2014, the numbers of women covered by subsistence allowances for urban and rural residents were 7.92 million and 18.26 million respectively, increasing by 2 million and 15.91 million, as compared to 2006. The state has actively implemented a number of public welfare and charity programs for impoverished mothers, such as the program of relief for mothers suffering from breast cancer and cervical cancer, the comfortable housing project for impoverished rural single mothers, and the mother health express program, bringing help to sick women, poor single mothers and various other groups of mothers in need.
The state ensures equal employment right for women. Employment has a vital bearing on people’s quality of life. The state has promulgated and improved laws and regulations to promote fair employment and eliminate gender discrimination in employment. The Employment Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China has a chapter specially dealing with fair employment, emphasizing gender equality in employment right. The Labor Contract Law of the People’s Republic of China has clear provisions under which businesses are required to create collective contracts for protecting female workers’rights and interests, providing a legal basis for protecting the legitimate rights and interests of female workers. To create favorable conditions for women’s employment and career development, the state has also developed, amended and implemented the Special Regulations on Labor Protection of Female Employees, along with policies that enable women in positions as middle-ranking officials, senior professionals and technicians at state organs and public institutions to retire at the same age as their male counterparts, and policies to facilitate the growth of female scientists and promote equal employment opportunities for female college graduates.