Bias is a 'way of life in jobs'

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-08 07:01

If you are a 30-plus plain Jane, or if you are not a local fresh graduate, get ready for the frustrations in the job market.

But rest assured, you are just one of the millions to face discrimination in China's cutthroat job market.

About 85 percent of the 3,424 respondents covered by a survey in 10 big cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, said discrimination in work and employment did exist. Also, the survey results released on Friday showed that 58 percent thought the problem to be severe.

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Appearance, height, gender and marital status are the most discriminative categories, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

Some requirements could be funny. The newspaper said Beijing resident Zhang Meng, who had more than 10 years' driving experience, failed to get a job because his prospective employers considered his name to be "unlucky".

"Meng", they said, literally means "rush" in Chinese, which made him more accident prone than others.

Employers discriminate against people from certain regions or areas, such as Central China's Henan Province, because of the negative impression they have about them. Beijing residents, too, have their share of bad luck because they are generally considered lazy.

Cai Dingjian, a professor from China University of Political Science and Law, who headed the survey, said such requirements, which are not connected with the job itself, violate people's equal right to pursue a career.

"It violates basic human rights," he was quoted by the newspaper as having said.

Cai said governments should be vigilant against such discriminations because they exist not only in companies, but are also practiced by them.

One example is that civil servants are usually required to have a pleasant personality.

Director of the labour law committee under the All China Lawyers Association Jiang Junlu said the lack of related laws and regulations was at the root of all discriminations.

"The existing Labor Law is too general to be implemented," he said. The law, enacted 13 years ago, is the only one in China that contains items on job discrimination.

It states that laborers shall not be discriminated against, regardless of their ethnicity, race, sex, or religious beliefs. But it does not elaborate on any of these points.

Experts have been calling for an amendment to the Labor Law to make it more penetrative, or for a separate law on job discrimination so that laborers could be protected more easily through legal means.

Although the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the country's top legislature, has not adopted the suggestions, it is very likely to review a draft law on employment promotion this year.

Ministry of Labor and Social Security official Yang Yixin said last month that the draft contained some details on job discrimination, especially those on gender, age and region.

China ratified an international convention on discrimination in employment and occupation in 2005, and promised to take appropriate action to grant equal opportunity and treatment.

(China Daily 01/08/2007 page2)

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