Despite the unprecedented growth in China, the world's second-largest economy is still facing the heat for its widespread gender discrimination practices.
The report published by Human Rights Watch and titled "Only Men Need Apply" says that discrimination in hiring by Chinese government authorities and private companies is contributing to a widening gender gap in the country.
"Nearly one in five job ads for China's 2018 national civil service called for 'men only' or 'men preferred,' while major companies like Alibaba have published recruitment ads promising applicants 'beautiful girls' as co-workers," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
The 99-page report analyzed over 36,000 job advertisements posted between 2013 and 2018 on Chinese recruitment and company websites and on social media platforms.
Some job posts require women to have certain physical attributes – with respect to height, weight, voice, or facial appearance – that are irrelevant to job duties. Others use the physical attributes of companies' current female employees to attract male applicants.
Private Chinese companies, including some technology giants, have used gender-specific ads.
For instance, search engine giant Baidu advertised a job in March 2017 for content reviewers stipulating that applicants must be "men," and have "strong ability to work under pressure, able to work on weekends, holidays and night shifts."
E-commerce conglomerate Alibaba in a January 2018 job ad stated "men preferred" for two "restaurant operations support specialist" positions.
Some job ads use the physical attributes of women – often the company's current employees – to attract male applicants. In recent years, Alibaba has repeatedly published recruitment ads boasting that there are "beautiful girls" or "goddesses" working for the company.
Although Chinese laws ban gender discrimination in hiring and gender discriminatory content in advertising, the laws lack a clear definition of what constitutes gender discrimination, and provide few effective enforcement mechanisms.
As a result, the level of enforcement is low and Chinese authorities rarely proactively investigate companies that repeatedly violate relevant laws.