#metoo for China?

March 6, 2018


Chairman Mao famously declared in China, “…women hold up half the sky.”


This central tenet of Communist Party doctrine, a desire for gender equality particularly in the workforce, is something to be admired. True, gender parity has grown by leaps and bounds over the past half century. But, has it been able to keep up with the rising dominance of China as an economic and political leader?


As we celebrate Women’s Day this week, Fulcrum decided to take a look at some of the ways women have, and have not, been afforded half the sky in the workplace.



The Basics

  • China is the world’s most populous nation, with 1.37 billion people.

  • Women make up approximately 48.6% of the population.

  • China’s has a workforce of 785,399,000 people.

  • Women make up about 57% of the total labor pool, the second-highest percentage in Asia.


The positives

  • Women now make up half of all Chinese tertiary graduates.

  • There has been a 51% increase in women holding senior management roles, one of the highest in the world. 


The negatives

  • China ranks 87th in global gender pay parity.

  • Women are paid 32.7% less than men in urban areas, and 44% less in rural areas.

  • 63.3% of women participate in the workforce compared to 78% of men.

  • Workplace policies still discriminate against women, particularly those who are pregnant or older. A survey assessed 75% of women believed they were let go because of marriage or childbirth.

  • Women in blue-collar jobs must retire by age 50, versus age 60 for men.

  • Only 3.2% of CEOs at Chinese firms are women.


Overall, it’s clear China has a fair bit of catching up to do. But, this is fairly common across the industrialized world as a whole. While Government pressures and policies for change towards equality are certainly present, is it going to be enough to really drive consistent improvements?


One point gives us pause. This comes out of the catalytic #metoo movements happening across the western world. While China has also toyed with its own #metoo movement, it has been shrouded in the cagey language of the Internet. A play on words, 米 (mi) for rice and 兔 (tu) for rabbit was one way to get around the Great Firewall. What’s clear is that the Government would never allow a movement of this size and scale.


Without one, though, can China still keep Mao’s promise?


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