China Labour E-Bulletin

Issue No. 16 (2004-03-07)

1. Editor's Note

2. Women: Second class workers

3. "Dagongmei": Female migrant workers

4. Rural women: A short summary of concerns

5. Selection of news articles on women

6. Cases of working women's protests

7. History of International Women's Day


This special issue of CLB’s E-Bulletin is to commemorate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The history of International Women’s Day dates back to 1910 when calls by groups of socialist women and working women resulted in the women’s movement designating this specific date to draw attention to their struggle and increase international solidarity. The day has been seen as a time for asserting women's political and social rights, for reviewing the progress that women have made, and as a day for celebrating women and their contribution to the world.

Almost 100 years on, while the lives of millions of women and women workers have improved dramatically, for many female workers life remains harsh and abusive. For Chinese women, there has been progress and at the same time - more recently - regression. There remains a long way to go before there is equality between men and women in China and this is reflected in their different experiences of working life.

The first article gives an overview of working life for the majority of women in China employed in state-owned enterprises. It summarises some of the legislation in place to protect women and the problems in enforcing and developing laws that promote equality. It also looks at how the recent economic changes have negatively affected working women and how remaining discriminatory beliefs are denying half of China’s population equal access to education, employment and career development.

The second report explores the lives of migrant women workers in China. Documenting their working conditions, their attitudes towards the current economic reforms, their motives for migration and their changing attitudes to rural life.

The third article gives a short summary of the main issues facing rural women left behind in the countryside,who are labouring under the double burden of running a household and earning a living, all the while enduring the stigmata of pervasive sexual discrimination against females in the rural areas.

There is also a short selection of articles translated from Chinese newspapers, a history of International Women’s Day and some relevant news and female protests CLB has monitored.

China Labour Bulletin is committed to campaigning for the right of all workers in China to dignity at work and the freedom to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of association. In China, with the continuing discrimination against women, the denial of independent trade unions and the negative effects of globalisation on women workers, there is still a long road ahead.

[Please click on the individual links (underlined) below to go to our website and read the reports]

Women in China: Second class workers

According to ACWF the number of working women in China is now 330 million, accounting for 46.7 percent of the total working population in the country. Despite the increase in the numbers of recognised women workers, women are - and were - employed mainly in low paid, primary industries such as manufacturing. Women account for a very low percentage of managerial staff and professional staff. Despite great advances since 1949, the majority of female workers are still seen as expendable employees, likely to leave after only a few years service or as expensive and unfavourable candidates for workplace training or promotion, perpetuating their status as second class workers. This short report looks at some of the factors underlying continuing discrimination and unemployment, especially in the state sector.

"Dagongmei": Female Migrant Workers
Since 1984, when the Regulations on Permanent Residence Registration were loosened, millions of Chinese rural residents have migrated to the urban areas in search of employment. The result has been an ever-growing population of migrant labourers without the minimal benefits of residency including medical care, housing or education for their children. Most are unaware of their rights and unable or unwilling to exercise these rights against the powerful forces that control their access to employment. Migrant workers in general, and female migrants in particular, who work in low paid, labour intensive sectors are frequently subjected to long overtime hours, poor or unsafe working conditions and the withholding of wages.

Rural Working Women in China : A short summary of concerns
Since the emergence of mass migration from the rural areas to the urban areas, much of the burden of agricultural work has been shouldered by those left behind in the countryside.There is an estimated 100 million migrants, over 13 percent of the total rural population. Statistics show that more and more women are taking over agricultural responsibilities in addition to existing work - in 2003, women made up an estimated 67 pecent of farmers. Given rural poverty, the lack of access to basic services, extensive corruption and high taxation as well as the additional burden of caring for the family, for most women working in rural areas, life is increasingly harsh.

Selection of news on women workers in China
A short selection of some relevant news clippings from the Chinese media over the past 12 months which highlight some cases of discrimination against female workers and reveal the concern felt within China over the problems relating to sexual discrimination, lack of equality for women in the workforce, working conditions and the plight of the rural population. The selection is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to illuminate the range of issues involved.

Women worker reports/>

A selection of links to CLB's reports on or related to women's protests, working conditions or current situation

Catalogue of human deaths in China’s firework factories

One person committs suicide every two minutes in China

“We Simply Lack the Rights”: A female state-owned enterprise worker in Zhejiang discusses enterprise reform

Violence and Discrimination Against Tibetan Women workers : Extracts from a 1998 report submitted by the Tibet Justice Center, the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

What's In a Sweatshop

On the Arrest of Protest-Hit Factory Head in Liaoyang and Burnt Women Workers in Chongqing

Hundreds of Women Workers Petition for Jobs in Daqing, Heilongjiang

Hundreds of Women Workers Petition for Jobs in Daqing, Heilongjiang (Follow-up No.1

Hundreds of Women Workers Petition for Jobs in Daqing, Heilongjiang (Follow-up No.2

Hundreds of Women Workers Petition for Jobs in Daqing, Heilongjiang (Follow-up No.3

Hundreds of Women Workers Petition for Jobs in Daqing, Heilongjiang (Follow-up No.4

Worker Passivity in China - A Maoist Myth

Workers Humiliated by Body Searches

2,000 Women Retirees Protest in Daqing

They won't take to the streets for no reasons" -- female pension protesters in Inner Mongolia

Women Workers in Lanzhou Chemical Corp Win Retirement Struggle

Life on the Line at the Kai Mao Zhi Pin

CEDAW and Women Organising

Profits and Lives

Lay-Offs Hit Women Workers Hardest

A short history of International Women's Day

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