Assembly-line workers at a factory in Fuyang in eastern China / © AFP/File
Chinese lawmakers are discussing new rules to prevent workplace discrimination and sexual harassment against women amid a string of high-profile cases in recent months.
A draft bill published Friday includes a ban on employers stating gender preferences on job ads and quizzing female applicants about their marital or pregnancy status –- a common practice that has been criticised for decades.
Rapid economic growth in the past four decades coupled with the one-child rule has opened up more educational and employment opportunities for Chinese women.
But women's participation in the workforce has dropped, due to gender-based filtering when hiring and as more women care for families amid a severe shortage of affordable childcare options.
A report by Human Rights Watch in June found that one in five civil service job postings in 2019 specified a preference for male applicants.
The report also says that it was a common practice for employers including schools to force female staff to sign contracts promising not to get pregnant for several years as a pre-condition for being hired.
The proposed new rules come amid concerns that China's new three-child rule could make employers even more reluctant to hire women and as officials crack down on the local #MeToo movement after a string of cases that led to a public outcry over sexual assault in the workplace.
Earlier this month, e-commerce giant Alibaba group fired a female staffer who had accused a manager of sexual assault.
The proposed amendments will make enforcement easier by clearly defining what sexual harassment is, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
According to a draft text published Friday, it prohibits "vulgar speech", "inappropriate physical behaviour" or "the display or dissemination of sexual images, information, text, audio or video".
It also requires employers to set up mechanisms to prevent, investigate and respond to such complaints "without delay", but there were no details on any penalties for failing to do so.
The amendments are open for public comment until January 22, 2022.