China - Social development

Social welfare programs cover workers in state-operated enterprises and institutions, which include virtually all employees of government agencies, mining, manufacturing, industry, railroad, shipping, and construction units. Welfare in rural areas is administered by the state and collective farms, which provide clothing, shelter, and food for sick and disabled people and place the aged in homes. Recreational and cultural services are also supported through welfare payments. Although wage scales in China remain low, the range of benefits has been expanding. According to the Labor Law, male workers and professional women are eligible to retire at age 60, female non-salaried workers at 55, and other women at age 50. The amount of the pension is decided by the local or city government based on the standard of living in that area.

Workers may receive six months' sick leave at 60–100% of salary. For work-related total disability, workers are entitled to lifetime compensation of 75–90% of the standard wage. Maternity leave at full pay is provided for up to 90 days. In addition, numerous health, day-care, and educational benefits are provided free of charge. In urban areas, housing rentals rarely exceed 5% of the monthly wage.

The economic status of women, formerly considered little more than chattels for their husband's family, improved considerably after 1950, aided by the introduction of a work-point system of payment on the communes and by legislation guaranteeing equal pay for equal work. A campaign to increase literacy among women, formerly denied education, also opened doors to increased employment opportunities. The 1950 Marriage Law abolished arranged marriages, outlawed polygamy, and further protected women's rights by granting widows the right to remarry without the consent of the dead husband's family and guaranteeing to women as well as to men the right of divorce. Nonetheless, it is still usual for a woman to move in with her husband's family after marriage, and women continue to be significantly underrepresented at the higher levels of government.

Despite constitutional provisions, women may face discrimination in the workplace. Women continue to report that unfair dismissal, sexual harassment, demotions, and wage disparity are significant problems. In addition, some enterprises are reluctant to hire women because of the additional costs of maternity leave. Most women earn less than men, and make up approximately 70% of the nations' illiterate population. Violence against women remains a serious problem, and spousal abuse goes largely unreported. The suicide rate among women is three times the global average.

A serious human rights problem is female infanticide by families wishing for sons. The imbalance of sex ratios in the country has lead to a shortage of women of marriageable age, and a dramatic increase in the abduction of women for this purpose. The government continued to condemn and took steps to curb traditional abuse of women.

China's human rights record continued to draw international censure. Ongoing human rights abuses include arbitrary and lengthy detention, forced confessions, torture and the mistreatment of prisoners. Repression of political dissent continues. Prison conditions are poor and China does not allow any independent monitoring of its prisons. Widespread human rights abuses have also been reported in Chinese-occupied Tibet. The government does not tolerate any political dissent or proindependence movements in Tibet.

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