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Chinese Companies, Government Accused of Sex Discrimination in Hiring

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A new report accuses top Chinese technology companies and the Chinese government of sex discrimination in hiring.

The report concerns the advertising of jobs. It says discriminatory ads are linked to a shrinking percentage of women in the labor force.

Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent Holdings Ltd are among the companies whose ads most dissuade female interest in jobs, says Human Rights Watch. The organization released the report on Monday.

Many of the ads described having “beautiful girls” at the company workplace. Others included height, appearance and personality requirements for women. The qualities that were sought were unrelated to those needed for the work, the report said.

The company Tencent has answered the report. It said, “We have investigated these incidents and are making immediate changes.” The company also apologized and promised actions to prevent a repeat of the behavior.

A spokesperson for Alibaba said the company would do more careful examinations of employment advertisements to make sure they observe company policy.

FILE - People sit in front of the company logo of Baidu at its headquarters in Beijing, China, Dec. 17, 2014.
FILE - People sit in front of the company logo of Baidu at its headquarters in Beijing, China, Dec. 17, 2014.

A Baidu spokesperson described the advertisements as “isolated instances.”

A movement against discrimination and sexual harassment is growing in China. The worldwide #MeToo movement has helped support it. However, Chinese internet officials have blocked much of the #MeToo related material online.

The worldwide movement began last year as victims of sexual harassment used social media to share their stories under the hashtag #MeToo.

American technology companies have since been accused of discriminatory behavior. This helped turn the focus to technology companies worldwide.

Human Rights Watch examined 36,000 Chinese job advertisements. Most of them were posted in 2013 or after.

The report also found sexist job advertisements for government workers, construction workers and teachers.

It said that 19 percent of the Chinese civil service job ads it examined from this year were “men only” or men-favored. Only one job posting this year sought a female candidate over a male candidate.

The Reuters news agency requested a comment from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, an agency that was noted in the report. It did not provide an answer.

Alibaba employees attend a mass wedding at their headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, May 10, 2017.
Alibaba employees attend a mass wedding at their headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, May 10, 2017.

Human Rights Watch said some businesses used code words in ads to suggest favoritism for males. One used the Chinese word for south, which is said in the same way as the Chinese word for male.

In addition, the report said that sexist hiring behavior was a major reason for the lower numbers of women in the workforce and unfairness of pay between the sexes.

Chinese laws ban discrimination based on gender. However, Human Rights Watch said, “enforcement is low and Chinese authorities rarely proactively investigate companies that repeatedly violate relevant laws.”

The Human Rights Watch report received little attention on Chinese social media after its release.

Chinese social media companies are often required to restrict civil rights discussions, including past Human Rights Watch findings and posts related to the #MeToo movement.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

Reuters reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

hire - v. to give work or a job to (someone) in exchange for wages or a salary

isolated adj. happening just once​

harassment n. the act of annoying or bothering (someone) in a constant or repeated way

focus n. a subject that is being discussed or studied : the subject on which people's attention is focused — usually singular​

coden. a set of letters, numbers, symbols, etc., that is used to secretly send messages to someone

authorities n. people who have power to make decisions and enforce rules and laws​

relevant adj. the act of annoying or bothering (someone) in a constant or repeated way​

instance n. an occasion of something happening​

construction n. the business of building things ​

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