Equal opportunities need enforcing

Taking less than five hours to complete the 1,318-kilometer journey from Beijing to Shanghai, the high-speed line has garnered praise around the world.

However, news about the cabin crew is less praise worthy.

The 309 members of the service staff were selected from more than 5,000 employees of the Beijing Railway Bureau. But they had to meet strict requirements. They must be female, younger than 28, be of fair-complexion and have a shapely figure that conforms to selection standards. They must weigh less than 60 kilograms and be between 165-170 centimeters tall.

I am wondering if the crew members were chosen for the catwalk or to assist passengers on the high-speed trains.

By now, you might start to understand why so many young Chinese women carry open umbrellas on a beautiful sunny day, or why so many women skip lunch or dinner. It is so they don’t become an underdog in the job market.

It is odd that the railway bureau believes that women under the age of 28 make the best stewardesses, since older stewardesses are often preferred by passengers for their experience, especially in emergency situations.

By setting such rigorous age, gender, height and even skin color requirements, the bureau has denied many capable people a job.

Nevertheless, this is only a sign of the widespread job discrimination in China today.

According to a study released last month by the Shaanxi provincial committee of the Jiu San Society, which covered the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Xi’an, Shenzhen and Kunming, about 70 percent of respondents believed the job market favors males.

Meanwhile, 44 percent of the women who responded said they were told of various marriage and pregnancy restrictions when applying for jobs.

What is deeply troubling is that many government organizations are clearly setting a bad example.

In an earlier study by the China University of Political Science and Law, 66 percent of respondents said they encountered widespread discrimination when applying for a job with a public institution, ranging from age, educational background, political affiliation, hukou (residential permit) and health issues.

People over the age of 35 are generally not allowed to take public service tests. Some government organizations completely reject applicants who are HIV-positive and Hepatitis-B carriers, despite the fact that such diseases are only infectious through blood transfusions or sexual intercourse.

There are more bizarre criteria for job applicants. Some require the applicants to be smokers and good drinkers, since they are regarded as important “skills” to lubricate business deals. Some businesses even decline to hire people with the surname Pei since it’s a homophone of another Chinese character meaning “losing money”.

The Wannan Medical College in Anhui province shocked the nation in March when the school would not allow men less than 170 cm tall and women under 160 cm in height to take the application tests. If that standard was applied to top universities around the world, many first-class professors would be fired.

The blatant violations of the Labor Law regarding equal employment show how weak its enforcement is. Meanwhile, the call for a comprehensive equal opportunity employment law is as loud as ever from legal professionals, academia and hundreds of millions of job seekers.

The author, based in New York, is deputy editor of China Daily US edition. E-mail: chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn

Source: China Daily

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