China’s gender gap in politics and society is widening

The position of Chinese women has deteriorated in a number of important areas, including political empowerment. This is the result of the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, released on November 2 by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The CCP’s 19thCongress in October was a powerful reminder of this trend. The number of women in the newly elected Central Committee dropped from 6.4 to 4.9 percent and the number of women in the Politburo dropped from 2 to 1. Only about a quarter of the Party Congress’ 2,300 delegates were female.

In the Global Gender Gap report, China slipped from place 99 to 100 among 144 surveyed countries from 2016 to 2017. In line with global developments, it is the first time the report observed a downward trend in China after a decade of improvements.

In line with its socialist heritage, China continues to do well in areas such as women’s access to education and participation in the workforce. But it scores below the global average in areas like political empowerment and general health.

Observers have noted a return to more traditional role models in Chinese families. A report earlier this year concluded that the introduction of the two-child policy last year has led to a widening gender gap in the percentage of the day spent doing unpaid housework.

The global outrage over the Harvey Weinstein scandal has also triggered a debate about widespread misogyny in Chinese society. A China Daily article that claimed that sexual harassment was a Western problem, was ridiculed and debunked within and outside Chinese film industry circles. China Daily eventually took down the article. Sexual harassment and discrimination is also an ongoing problem for female factory workers.

The Chinese government has promised to improve gender equality through means such as offering equal social security insurance for women and slightly increasing maternity leave days (from 90 to 98) or by offering micro credit for female start-up entrepreneurs.