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Trade Liberalization, Social Policy Development and Labour Market Outcomes of Chinese Women and Men in the Decade After China’s Accession to the World Trade Organization

image of Trade Liberalization, Social Policy Development and Labour Market Outcomes of Chinese Women and Men in the Decade After China’s Accession to the World Trade Organization

How trade liberalization affects women’s position in the labour market and what role public policy should play to make the process work better for women are among some of the most debated issues in academic communities and in policy-making arenas. This work sheds light on these contentious issues by analysing the trends in labour market outcomes of women and men in China in the decade after its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The publication reviews the changes associated with China’s economic reforms and opening to international trade and investment since the process started in the late 1970s. Since the early 2000s, a wide range of policy measures have been introduced to strengthen labour market regulations, reduce inequality and increase social security. However, most of these policy initiatives were ‘gender neutral’, paying inadequate attention to the institutional constraints that disadvantaged women in the labour market.

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Policy development and macroeconomic trends in the decade after accession to the wto

China’s accession to the WTO in 2001 marked another stage in the transformation of its economy. This was spurred not only by domestic market expansion but also by greater exposure to international market forces. Increased access to world markets for Chinese manufactured goods and foreign investment was expected to fuel growth in employment in industry and services, accelerate the transformation of surplus labour in agriculture into non-agricultural activities and further increase labour productivity and incomes. However, WTO membership also committed China to opening up its domestic markets to foreign competition and putting pressure on agriculture as well as the previously protected industrial sectors, which may increase labour dislocations and exacerbate inter-regional and rural-urban income disparity and overall inequality (Fewsmith 2001; Blum 2002).

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