Economic development and women's economic status in China, with reference to Malaysia's experience

  • Xiao Hao Zhu

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    In its transformation to a more market-oriented economy, China has seen rapid economic growth. However, surplus labour continues to be an obstacle to the competitiveness of state firms, and the Chinese leadership has voiced its intention to cut at least two percent of the work force in the near future, which has come true. While reform creates many gains in income and opportunity for both men and women, the costs (especially in terms of employment opportunity) fall disproportionately on women.

    This dissertation addresses the relationship between women's economic status and economic development in China. In addition, a study of women's economic status in Malaysia is undertaken to provide a comparative analysis and to highlight the necessary variables behind the improvement of their economic roles. In order to provide a theoretical framework within which valid questions concerning gender issue might be formulated, four different perspectives are first discussed. Factors to do with shaping women's status in third-world societies are seen to be of major importance in understanding the problems faced by women during economic transformation. Three factors -- the rapid expansion of educational facilities and the ready and equal access of females to every level of education, the rapid economic development and industrialisation and the implementation of the New Economic Policy -- have contributed to Malaysian women's improving economic status.

    However, the increased participation in the economy with development does notnecessarily imply gender equity in the work place or in earnings. Besides, theoccupational segregation between females and males still exists. Therefore, neither the modernisation nor the feminists perspective explains entirely the effects of economic development on women's labour force.

    Because private returns and social returns to investments in women's edu•cation and health are not less than that for similar investment in men, the polices for reducing gender inequalities are essential for improving the well-being of all members of society. In view of the newly emerging pattern of industrial restructuring, changing economic development trends and various structural adjustment measures, there is now a need to rethink the "women and development" strategies. To understand this, it is necessary to:
    • reconceptualize "work" to encompass the actual participation of women in allsectors of the economy;
    • provide young women with broader areas of education and training;
    • protect women's share in employment resources and sources of income through legislation;
    • implement standard health and safety policies in all sectors;
    • consider women's development and their economic self-sufficiency.
    Date of AwardJul 1997
    Original languageEnglish

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