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Unequal Duties and Unequal Retirement: Decomposing the Women’s Labor Force Decline in Post-Reform China

Kai Feng, University of Pennsylvania

The gender gap in labor force participation in China has been widening in the past thirty years regardless of the economic growth and expanded female higher education enrollment. Previous literature has paid scant attention to how demographic change could interact with entrenched gender norms and institutional barriers in reinforcing gender inequality in the labor market. In this article, I argued that the rapid aging in China could depress the female labor force participation rate directly by interacting with the unequal retirement system that requires women to retire early, and indirectly by increasing women’s caring responsibilities. Using tabular data from the decennial national census in 1990, 2000, and 2010, and 1% population sample survey conducted between census in 1995 and 2005, I show that the proportion of female unemployment due to early retirement has increased over time from 1990 to 2010. It explains the gender gap in the unemployment rate by 14% for the entire nation and 30% for the urban population in 2010. Without a fundamental change in the current retirement system and family support system, the gender gap will be widened as the population age.

Keywords: Population ageing, Gender, Human capital and labour markets, Decomposition analysis/methods

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 28. Gender Differentials in Human Capital and Labour Force Participation