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Gender and Educational Inequality Still Prevelant by Victoria Cole, July 8, 2015 Adjust font size:

Dr. Sen Gong, of the Development Research Centre of the State Council, wrote a five-section report, "Inequality in China: A Case Study", with Associate Professor Bingqi Li, from Australian National University, and Save the Children UK, helping to address the root causes of inequality in opportunity and outcomes, as China seeks to pave the way for sustainable economic growth and social development.

Rising Inequalities in Outcomes and Opportunities (Section 2 Cont.)

Asset inequality is significant. Housing accounted for 60% of household wealth and for almost two-thirds of wealth inequality among households, significantly wider than the urban–rural income gap. Moreover, the wealth of high-net-worth individuals accounted for a greater share of the nation's wealth, rising to 24% in 2010.

Household wealth is also distributed unequally across the country. By 2010, more than 50% of China's high-net-worth individuals lived in just five places: Guangdong, Shanghai, Beijing, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. Resulting from marketization and uncontrolled speculation in the housing market in the past decade, housing prices have also spiked and become unaffordable for many. Adversely, state policies to increase the supply of affordable housing is considered by many to be unfriendly toward private housing.

Education inequalities have narrowed over time. In 2009, people with rural household registration (hukou) received 7 years of education, while people with urban household registration had 10.8 years.

The nature of gender inequality in China has changed. Men are no longer the only decision-makers at home; women's influence in the household and on the well-being of children has increased significantly. However, their influence in the workplace and in the political sphere has hardly increased. Women's status at work is strongly correlated with their educational level, but this is not the case for men.

Another persistent gender inequality can be seen in annual incomes as female earnings to male earnings decreased over the past 20 years: 77.5% in 1990 to 67.3% in 2010 in urban areas and from 78.9% in 1990 to 56.0% in 2010 in rural areas. Although women have received more education on average over the past 20 years and the female illiteracy rate is falling, women still constitute for more than 70% of the illiterate population.

One of the most important factors for the higher illiteracy rate among women is that for many years, girls in rural areas were given less priority in receiving education; even where girls were in school, if the family faced financial constraints, girls would be the first to be pulled out of school. Although improving levels of education have enabled some women to take up similar positions at work as men, they often had to outperform men in terms of educational achievement in order to get similar jobs, meaning women are more likely to participate in the low-skill labor market and to live in poor households than men.

Recent years have also seen the return of the male breadwinner model. Urban male migration has resulted in women having to take up increasing responsibilities both at home and in the fields, with much less time to look after and educate their children. Women's lack of education can also affect their ability to provide maternal care, with negative consequences for their children's health. Interestingly, maternal care or a lack thereof was correlated with literacy levels.