Gender Wage Gap in ChinaGlobally, the gender wage gap prevents economic equity and independence for women or gender non-conforming people. In China, the world’s largest country by population, women still face inequality in the workforce despite significant steps to minimize gender division over the past century. Below are five things to know about the gender wage gap in China.

The Declining Wage

Despite the rapid economic growth and expansion of services in China, the wage gap has increased over the past decade. While many countries move nearer to parity, China ranks 106th in the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap ratings, falling more than 40 places since 2006. “From 2000 to the 2010s,” there was an estimated minimum increase in the wage gap of 150% or more, reflecting a significant drop in the gender gap ratings. In 2000, women’s earnings were approximately 84% of men’s, but by 2013, their average earnings dropped to 65% of men’s earnings. The widening wage gap signifies the glass ceiling women face in the workforce due to gender. It further signals the influence gender holds on economic potential.

Rural vs. Urban

Regional traditions and characteristics shape social and economic institutions, and in China, rural traditions have led to increased discrimination and fewer economic opportunities for women. Despite slogans such as “woman hold half the sky,” certain social dynamics and gender discrimination fail to create equality in wages. Traditional belief systems, such as those tied to Confucian ideology, have deeper roots in rural communities, reducing autonomy and economic independence for women. On the other hand, women have narrower wage gaps in urban areas and corporations than in rural regions; however, the wage gap and other discriminatory factors are still present.

Legality and Bias

While gender discrimination is illegal in China, reports indicate an increased presence of gender-based hiring biases. There are two scenarios of discrimination and wage gap issues in China. One scenario is pay disparity despite equal work. The other is limited access to opportunities. Even with necessary qualifications and credentials, women are less likely to enter positions in management compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, discrimination toward pregnant women within the workplace is commonplace in Chinese companies, with consequences as extreme as being fired or replaced. Ultimately, these pressures force early returns to work for pregnant mothers and place women in general under greater scrutiny.


The lack of support for women and access to opportunities perpetuates the gender wage gap in China and limits opportunities to create women-led businesses in China. Without women in leading positions, male-dominated high salary positions become more challenging to obtain and increase the bias in favor of men. Even in applying for bank loans, women may face further scrutiny and challenges due to historical barriers that disproportionately affect them. The limitations on entrepreneurship ultimately favor men in business fields as women have restricted access to managerial positions and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The One Child Policy

In 1979, the Chinese government implemented the one child policy to control rapid population growth, allowing exceptions in rural communities. With the policy came increased discrimination against women. Mothers would choose abortion over keeping a daughter or send unwanted daughters to orphanages, resulting in the term “missing women” during this period. While the policy officially ended in 2015, the policy’s impact reflected a preference for sons over daughters and the essential nature of gender in Chinese society. This policy emphasized gender bias and resulted in a mix of reactions; some families who chose to keep daughters invested solely in them.

The widening gender wage gap in China reveals the gender-based biases and discriminations in workplaces; however, it provides the information to form pathways towards equity. To promote gender equality and work toward solutions in an inclusive economy, China partners with the United Nations Development Program and International Labor Organization to empower women in finding work and starting businesses. The All-China Women’s Federation supervises laws and regulations to prevent discriminatory practices to protect and ensure equal rights. While there are necessary steps needed to narrow the gender wage gap in China, the government and NGOs work to ensure equity in the largest country in the world.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is any forced exploitation or trade of human beings against their will. Though it primarily manifests itself in the forms of forced labor and modern slavery, human trafficking can also apply to other issues such as sex trafficking, forced criminality and forced organ removal. China has fallen victim to these increased rates of human trafficking, and the issue will continue to prevail until more people become aware of the horrible atrocities that are occurring throughout the East Asian nation.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in China

  1. Prevalence of Human Trafficking: Human trafficking significantly impacts China’s migrant population of approximately 180 million people. Many of them work as forced laborers producing bricks, working in factories or mining for coal.
  2. Trafficking in China: Though credible data is not always available or attainable, many sources estimate that a majority of human trafficking in China takes place internally. In other words, most of China’s human trafficking involves its own citizens. These Chinese citizens are subject to traffickers moving or exploiting them throughout the country’s expansive geographical area.
  3. Foreign Women: Due to the Chinese government’s birth control policy, as well as a historic preference for male children, China has an unbalanced gender ratio distribution of 118 males to 100 females. According to researchers, this disparity is contributing to the human trafficking problem in China. Specifically, foreign women often become forced brides for men in China, as well as being forced into prostitution.
  4. Foreign Brides from Myanmar: As previously mentioned, millions of women become foreign brides who fall victim to human trafficking in China. Many of these women come from the nation’s southern neighboring country of Myanmar. According to anecdotal evidence from some women, they were typically sold within a range of approximately $3,000 and $13,000.
  5. Disabled People: In China, many of the targets for human trafficking are disabled people. In fact, in a 2016 report from the China Ministry of Public Security, one of the investigations resulted in the Chinese government’s arrest of 464 suspects. These people were all involved in labor trafficking of disabled Chinese citizens in some capacity.
  6. Organ Trafficking: Organ trafficking is a very obscure yet problematic manifestation of human trafficking in China. Though the Chinese government publicly announced that it would only accept organs for transplants from citizens that have donated voluntarily, many experts still speculate that secretive organ harvesting and trafficking occurs. Reports indicate that, even though the Chinese government claims that roughly 10,000 organ transplants occur each year, the real numbers could be closer to 80,000 per year.
  7. Tier 3 Country: The Trafficking in Persons Report, an annual report that the U.S. State Department issues, listed China as a Tier 3 country. Essentially, Tier 3 countries are nations whose governments do not sufficiently comply with the minimum anti-trafficking standards and are not making any significant efforts to do so. China’s government is not doing all that it can to combat this pervasive issue.
  8. Organizations to End Human Trafficking: Though many of these figures are startling and disheartening, many organizations around the world are currently working towards the eventual eradication of human trafficking in China and around the world. The United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT), for example, is a division of the United Nations that is currently working to improve the human trafficking situation in China. With the implementation of its National Plan of Action II, which is to conclude in 2020, UN-ACT has participated in a number of anti-trafficking actions and initiatives, such as hotspot policing borders and other high-traffic areas for potential victims of human trafficking.
  9. Women’s Roles in Eradicating Human Trafficking: Women organize many of these anti-human trafficking organizations. For example, the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) is a group that tackles many human and civil rights abuses throughout China. On July 3, 2019, ACWF conducted training in Central China’s Hunan Province to teach more Chinese women to spot and prevent trafficking and abductions.
  10. Equality Now: Another group called Equality Now has been working to eradicate human trafficking in China and around the world. Equality Now is an organization that works closely with Asian women, as well as other non-governmental organizations, to spread awareness and knowledge about trafficking and how to combat it. In March 2019, Equality Now participated in a conference with over 230 attendees to share ideas, anecdotes and methods to successfully spot and combat human trafficking, as well as provide critical support for victims and survivors.

Evidently, China has a continuously growing issue of human trafficking. Both Chinese citizens and foreigners can suffer exploitation in forced labor, among other things. Because of China’s vast geographic reach, combatting this issue is more difficult. That said, government initiatives, as well as anti-trafficking non-governmental organizations and local groups, are all contributing to decreasing human trafficking throughout China. The problem may seem insurmountable now, but as long as people continue to learn and spread awareness about trafficking in China, solutions will become more clear.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr