BEIJING, March 8 -- China's relaxed family planning policy is being challenged by widespread sex discrimination in the job market.
Now the world's most populous nation has reformed its "one-child" policy to allow couples to have a second child if either parent is an only child, a move to cope with its aging population.
The change will allow about 15 to 20 million people to expand their families, but only about half of them are willing to do so, according to research by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
For working Chinese mothers, a second child means an interruption or even an end to their career. And for many job-seeking women, even entertaining the idea risks losing their chance of landing a job.
Respondents' first question to female job candidates has become whether or not they will have two children, and to ensure the post, the answer must be "absolutely not."
Under Chinese law, women are entitled to maternity leave of at least 90 days with full pay, and the period will double if she wants a second child, a horrible intimidation for most employers.
Sex discrimination regarding employment is rampant in China as it is around the world.
According to a 2011 report released by the All-China Women's Federation, 56.7 percent of female graduates interviewed said there were "fewer job opportunities for girls," and a remarkable 91.9 percent said they had suffered gender discrimination from employers.
Soon after the new child policy's implementation late last year, some companies have swiftly cut their recruitment of female workers.
Premier Li Keqiang said last month that adjustment of the population policy complies with the people's will, relates to economic and social development, and that authorities must promote the cause.
After more than 30 years of explosive growth, China's economy is being dragged by a shortage of labor and an increasingly old population. It is hoped that the easing of the child policy can replenish the country with new blood and hope.
In this sense, the authorities are expected to curb gender discrimination in employment and ensure the smooth implementation of the new policy.
Law enforcement departments also need to reinforce their supervision over companies showing prejudice against women, and should investigate discrimination cases upon request and seriously punish violators.
As suggested by Lyu Pin, a women's rights advocate, the government should work out more preferential policies, such as tax reduction, for companies with a larger proportion of female employees. These companies should also be considered first in government procurement programs.
The government should also encourage qualified couples to give birth to two children by providing more subsidies and helping relieve the economic burden placed on their families by raising an extra baby, according to Lyu.