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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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Labour market outcomes of women and men between 2002 and 2010

Table 5-1 presents labour force participation rates (LFPRs) of women and men in 2002, 2008 and 2010.7 For the sample as a whole, men’s LFPR increased steadily from 84.9 per cent in 2002 to 85.8 per cent in 2008 and 85.9 per cent in 2010. In contrast, women’s LFPR fell from 76.1 per cent in 2002 to 74.9 in 2008 and then rose to 77.7 in 2010. The decline in women’s LFPR in 2008 may be a result of the 2008 global financial crisis. Between 2002 and 2010, the gender LFPR gap decreased from 8.8 to 7.4 percentage points. The increase of overall LFPR is primarily attributable to the rise of LFPR among migrant women and rural residents of both sexes. The gender gap in LFPR decreased from 15.2 to 5.0 percentage points for migrants and from 4.9 to 3.1 for rural residents between 2002 and 2010. The LFPRs of both female and male urban hukou holders are lower, compared with migrants and rural counterparts, and the gender gap of urban hukou holders (about 14 percentage points) is the largest among the three types of individuals for 2010. One reason for the difference in LPFR between urban hukou and rural hukou holders is that a majority of workers with an urban hukou can retire and claim pensions long before reaching the conventional retirement age of 65 years, whereas most rural hukou holders have no pensions and they stop working only when they are physically incapacitated (Pang et al. 2004).

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