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Understanding Chinese women’s lives, concerns

YANG HUI | 2018-11-08 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Delegates from around China attend the opening ceremony of the 12th National Women’s Congress in Beijing. Photo: CHINA DAILY


The 41st China Statistical Report on Internet Development, released by the China Internet Network Information Center, shows that as of December 2017, the number of Chinese internet users reached 772 million, among which 47.4 percent were female. Therefore, our research is intended to illustrate a panorama of female internet users in the new era and uncover the problems they tackle day to day, as well as how to meet their needs for a better life.

From December 2017 to January 2018, our research team conducted a questionnaire survey on female internet users aged 18 and above in urban and rural areas, covering 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. According to the survey, female internet users in the new era are mostly young people, highly educated and characterized by “self-reliance, self-confidence and self-improvement.”


Multiple dilemmas
Only by understanding the problems faced by female internet users can we provide targeted services and help. The survey look into the following issues that women struggle with most often.

According to the survey, 28.61 percent and 21.44 percent of female internet users were satisfied with their income and with their career development, respectively. Some 32.73 percent and 25.46 percent of female internet users who had received a college education or above were satisfied with their income and career development.

In order to fully understand the marital and family status of female netizens, this questionnaire designed some questions related to the difficulty of balancing work and family, health, children’s education, insufficient pension/medical security, housing problems, family relationships and marital status.

According to the survey, 12.29 percent of the female internet users were not worried about any of the seven categories above. Of those female internet users who had trouble with one or more of the seven options, 65.30 percent were worried about one or two items, and 22.40 percent were worried about three or more items.

Among them, the difficulty in juggling work and family was on top of the list (32.54 percent). The number of respondents who worried about insufficient pension/medical security or children’s education all exceeded 30 percent, while about 10 percent worried about their marital status and family relations.

Balancing work and family is crucial to promoting women’s career development and family life. Childcare burden constitutes a major cause of work-family conflict in the absence of essential public care services.

According to the survey, among female netizens with a child under 6 or 3 years old, 43.28 percent and 46.67 percent were worried about work and family balance, far higher than that of female netizens in general.

Meanwhile, an anxiety about children’s education was prevalent among women surveyed. Influenced by the education reform in primary and secondary schools, the commercial publicity of training institutions and the social environment, parents find it difficult to raise their children in a carefree, healthy and happy atmosphere with adequate sleep.

The survey shows that 30.51 percent of female internet users worried about children’s education, especially those with children (42.90 percent). Among them, 46.87 percent of those parenting 6- to 17-year-old school-age children expressed concern about their children’s education. For those with a child under 6 or 3 years old, the proportions were 46.56 percent and 44.67 percent, respectively.

Satisfaction with marriage and family relationships also needs to be improved. Female netizens’ satisfaction with marriage and with family relationships was 36.66 percent and 48.12 percent, respectively.

For unmarried women, 24.27 percent were worried about their marital status, 3.47 times more than married women. Among them, 28.91 percent of unmarried women aged 25 or above expressed concern about their marital status, while 32.93 percent of unmarried female netizens with a bachelor’s degree or above expressed concern. In general, unmarried female internet users with a high degree of education were worried about their marriage status, either because they were being pressured to get married or because they wanted to get married but had no suitable partner.

In response to social issues, 72.71 percent of female internet users said they would comment on the internet; 24.04 percent said they would turn to newspaper, radio, television or other media to express their concerns; 28.03 percent would voice themselves via mail, phone or the door to the relevant government department; 21.21 percent by social organizations such as the All-China Women’s Federation; and another 8.11 percent through advising NPC/CPPCC delegates.
In cases of personal rights infringement, 30 percent of respondents would seek media exposure, whereas less than one tenth of women would try their luck with the other channels mentioned above, signifying there are insufficient channels to help safeguard women’s interests.

Awareness of gender equality refers to holding respect for the equal rights of men and women in all fields and aspects of social, family and individual life and to supporting equal opportunities for men and women to enjoy political, economic, social, cultural and health resources. Any cultural customs and institutional regulations that limit the aforementioned equal rights and opportunities of men and women need to be changed.

For the statement that “Chinese society has realized equality between men and women,” 50.85 percent of women netizens thought it was true. The lower the level of education, the more likely they would compromise with the statement. For those who had not received a college education and for those who had only a junior middle school education, the proportions were 69.76 percent and 82.01 percent, respectively.

In contrast, 46.79 percent of those with higher education consented to the statement, and 33.67 percent of those with a graduate degree found the notion acceptable.

In addition, 43.19 percent of women netizens agreed that “the husband’s career development is more important than that of the wife,” among which 52.64 percent of those with a high school education or below believed that is indeed the case, while 38.89 percent with a bachelor’s degree or above stood by the idea.


Policy advice
Based on the above findings, this paper proposes countermeasures from three aspects: policy support, social services and expression of women’s interests.

In terms of policy support, first, the government should effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of female internet users, promote their career development, help balance their work and family, and improve their income, so as to improve the job satisfaction of female internet users.

Second, the social security department should develop pension and medical security systems to improve the social security of female netizens.

Third, the housing and construction department should conduct a housing satisfaction survey, carry out livelihood projects such as affordable housing construction, and improve the housing satisfaction of female netizens.

In social services, first, the government should continue to carry out online and offline legal consultation, increase information and knowledge about children’s education, and provide targeted entrepreneurial guidance and marriage counseling.

Second, relevant departments should provide childcare and housekeeping services, reduce women’s marriage and family burdens, and promote female netizens to balance work and family, so as to achieve personal career development.

Third, we should continue to promote the basic national policy of gender equality and constantly improve the gender awareness of female internet users.

In terms of interest expression, the government should smooth out the complaint reporting system for female netizens and open more effective channels for female netizens to express their demands.


Yang Hui is from the Women’s Studies Institute of China.

(edited by YANG XUE)