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Women's unequal access in dual labour market: an integrative view of gender inequality in contemporary urban China



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China has been experiencing a fast pace of development since late 1970s. Among the key transformations, industrialization, urbanization, and modernization created huge changes in occupational distributions and in women’s participation in the paid labour market. However, women still experience unequal treatment. This study is conducted to find the reasons why women hold a lower status in labour markets in the context of China’s fast development. Dual Labour Market Theory is used to examine gendered divisions in urban China, revealing that women are more likely to be in positions in the secondary sector with weaker status than those in the primary sector. This study has three objectives: (1) to determine the extent to which distributions across primary and secondary sectors characterize the labour market for contemporary urban workers in China; (2) if a dual labour market applies, to examine how it relates to gender inequality in contemporary urban China, and provide evidence of the major factors that affect gender inequality in the Chinese dual labour market; and (3) to identify the major factors that contribute to women’s limited access to positions associated with the primary labour market. Quantitative methods are applied to fulfill objectives (1) and (2). Data from the China General Social Surveys of 2003 and 2005 are used. The results show that women are under-represented in the primary sector, and that gender inequality is more prevalent in the secondary sector than that in the primary sector. Qualitative methods are applied to address objective (3). Through interviews and an examination of existing laws and policies, I find that cultural and institutional factors affect women’s status in the dual labour markets. Cultural factors include traditional ideology and strong gender stereotype. Institutional factors include government public policies and local gender norms and practices in employment and managerial process. In the end, I suggest that government should amend policy to improve prospects for women’s equal rights, intensify supervision of gender-related policy implementation, encourage academic research into gender equality, and build effective social welfare systems to relieve women from household works and subordinate position in both family and paid-labour market.



Key Word 1: Gender Inequality Key Word 2: Dual Labour Market Key Word 3: Culture Key Word 4: Institution



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)







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