Are girls intimidated by attractive men

China: Job postings discriminate against women

(Hong Kong) - The government and private companies in China should take action against regular discrimination against women in job postings, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Chinese authorities rarely enforce the relevant legal bans on discrimination in the labor market and in advertising.

"This year, almost every fifth position in the Chinese civil service was advertised 'exclusively for men' or 'preferably for men', while companies like Alibaba published job offers that promised applicants 'beautiful girls' as work colleagues," said Sophie Richardson, director of China at Human Rights Watch. "The Chinese authorities must act to enforce applicable laws and stop hiring practices that blatantly discriminate against women."

The 99-page report "Only Men Need Apply: Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China" examines over 36,000 job offers that were published on Chinese job exchanges and company websites as well as on social networks between 2013 and 2018. Many of the vacancies were restricted to male applicants or included a preference for men. Some job offers require female applicants to have certain physical characteristics that are irrelevant to the performance of professional duties, such as height, weight, voice or facial features. Other vacancies advertised the physical characteristics of female employees in order to attract male applicants.

According to research by Human Rights Watch, 13 percent of government job postings in 2017 indicated "men only," "men preferred," or "suitable for men." For example, a job posting for the Ministry of Public Security's intelligence department stated: "Frequent overtime required, very intensive work, only men should apply". In the current year 19 percent of the positions in the civil service were advertised exclusively for men or preferably for male applicants. In contrast, the authorities did not offer a single position “only for women”, “preferred for women” or “suitable for women” in 2017 and only one in 2018.

Private companies in China also posted gender-specific job vacancies, including some large tech companies. In March 2017, the search engine giant Baidu advertised positions for content reviewers and stipulated that applicants had to be “men” and have a “strong ability to work under pressure, work on weekends, holidays and night shifts”. The e-commerce group Alibaba posted a job advertisement for a "Supporting specialist in restaurant operations" in January 2018 with the note "Men preferred".

Such job vacancies are against the law, deprive women of career opportunities, and reflect deeply discriminatory views about women, such as the notion that women are intellectually, physically, and physiologically less productive than men and that they cannot fully devote themselves to their jobs because some women quit their jobs to raise a family.

It is also common for women to be portrayed as sexual objects in Chinese job advertisements. Many ads contain irrelevant physical requirements. For example, a job offer for clothing salespeople in Beijing, which was posted on the Zhilian job exchange, stated “Secondary school diploma or better, female, 18 to 30 years old, height 163cm or more, well-groomed figure, aesthetically pleasing.” An advertisement for train attendants in Shaanxi Province was entitled "fashionable and beautiful high-speed train companions".

In order to attract male applicants, some job offers advertise the outward characteristics of women - often current employees of the company. Between 2011 and 2015, Alibaba repeatedly published advertisements bragging about its "good-looking girls" or "goddesses". In an article published by tech company Tencent on its official WeChat channel in October 2016, a male employee was quoted as saying, “The reason I came to Tencent was a primal impulse. It was mainly because the ladies in human resources and those who interviewed me were very pretty. "

"Sexist job postings use traditional stereotypes that persist in Chinese companies," said Richardson. “Even companies that boast of being the forces of progress and modernity use such recruiting methods. This shows how deeply ingrained discrimination against women still is in China. "

Chinese labor law, as well as other laws and regulations, prohibit any gender-based discrimination in the labor market. Advertising law prohibits gender-specific discrimination in advertising. However, the laws lack a clear definition of gender discrimination and lack effective enforcement mechanisms. The main enforcement authorities are regional employment and social welfare offices, as well as trade and commerce authorities. However, they rarely investigate on their own initiative against companies that violate the relevant laws. Their responses to complaints from women's rights activists are mixed and contradictory. Often times, when companies post discriminatory job postings, the agencies just tell them to change or remove the ads. Fines are very rarely imposed.

In recent years, several women have successfully taken legal action against discriminatory job offers. However, those responsible only had to pay minor damages. In 2013, college graduate Guo Jing sued a culinary school in Zhenjiang Province after it advertised a clerk position exclusively for male applicants. The court ruled that the culinary school had violated Guo's right to professional equality and ordered the facility to pay Guo 2,000 yuan ($ 300) in damages. The verdict is considered to be the first case in which gender discrimination proceedings have been decided in favor of job seekers.

Tackling discrimination against women in the labor market is made much more difficult by the Chinese government's ingrained hostility towards civil rights activists and restrictions on freedom of expression. In recent years, prominent women's rights activists have been harassed, intimidated and have been evicted by police. Profiles in the social networks that campaigned for women's rights were repeatedly blocked.

"Instead of harassing and imprisoning women's rights activists, the Chinese government should seek dialogue with them and see them as allies in the fight against gender discrimination in the labor market and beyond," said Richardson.