Gender Inequality in Education and Employment: China’s Urban Labor Markets in Transition, 1982-2005

Xiaogang Wu, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Xi Song, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

This paper examines the trend in gender inequality in educational attainment and non-agricultural employment in urban China since the 1990s. Based on the analyses of the micro-sample data from the 1982, 1990 and 2000 population censuses and the 2005 mini-census, we found that: (1) the gender gap in education, though still existing, has been substantially reduced; (2) the increase in women’s education in China did not lead to higher rates of labor force participation. Instead, women’s employment rate drops over time; (3) despite the fact that education increases in the likelihood of employment, this effect has declined over time for both men and women; (4) While married men are more likely to hold employment, married women are less likely to do so. The evidence suggests a return to traditional gender roles that used to be shaped by the socialist ideology on gender equality.

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Presented in Session 167: Gender in Developing Countries