Caixin
Dec 21, 2019 03:46 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

China Falls Further in Latest Global Gender Relations Rankings

Photo: VCG
Photo: VCG

China made little progress on gender relations in the past year, underscoring a decade-long trend that has seen other nations outpace the East Asian giant when it comes to improving the position of women.

The country ranked 106th out of 153 nations in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report that was released Tuesday. That’s three places lower than last year and a dramatic slide from 2008, when China placed 57th on the list.

The annual report assigns participating countries an overall score depending on the state of their gender relations. A score of 1 indicates gender parity, while lower scores indicate that women are treated more poorly in comparison to men. The report also assigns scores on a host of subcategories based on the same metric.

China’s overall score of 0.676 fell far below the 0.877 attained by the highest-ranking nation, Iceland. Scandinavian nations occupied the top four positions, while the U.K. came 21st and the U.S. 53rd.

Although China did rank slightly higher than its East Asian and Pacific neighbors South Korea and Japan, the region as a whole is still an estimated 163 years away from realizing full gender parity, more than half a century longer than the world average, according to the report.

And China’s position still slumped despite improving on last year’s scores in the fields of political empowerment, educational attainment, and economic participation and opportunity. The slide indicates that other countries’ performances are outstripping the world’s most populous nation.

Of greatest concern, China came rock bottom in the category of health and survival, due largely to “gender differences at birth,” the report said, adding that the country’s skewed newborn sex ratio of 885 girls for every 1,000 boys “underscore(s) the issue of ‘missing women’ and gender-specific gaps on access to healthcare.” That imbalance is largely a product of a cultural preference for boys, a phenomenon that has been linked to illegal sex-selective abortions and infanticide.

Mao Zedong may once have claimed that “women hold up half the sky,” but in China they remain subordinate to men on a number of important fronts. The country’s government is male-dominated, with women only representing around one-quarter of the nearly 3,000-member National People’s Congress, the state legislature. Only one sitting member of the 10-person State Council, China’s cabinet, is a woman.

Additionally, the average monthly salary of Chinese women is only around 78% of men’s, according to a March survey by online recruiter Zhipin.com. Women also frequently face discrimination at work, with childbearing frequently invoked as a barrier to promotion or leadership.

Hostility toward women who identify as feminists is also common in China, where women’s rights activists are often harassed and sometimes jailed.

Feng Yuan, a director of the Chinese Women’s Research Society, told Caixin that China’s slide down the rankings reflected the fact that economic growth does not “automatically” bring a rise in the social position of women.

In addition to revealing traditional preferences for men over women, the country’s skewed sex ratio at birth also highlights that entrenched discrimination against women persists in social policy and structures, Feng added.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

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