Dissertations and Theses

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Women, Equality, Market


In the context of China’s three-decade market-oriented economic reform, in which economic development has long been prioritized, women’s development, as one of the social undertakings peripheral to economic development, has relatively lagged behind. This research is an attempt to unfold the current situation of women’s development within such context by studying the case of Guangdong -- the province as forerunner of China’s economic reform and opening-up -- drawing on current primary resources. First, this study reveals mixed results for women’s development in Guangdong: achievements have been made in education, employment and political participation in terms of “rates” and “numbers,” and small “breakthroughs” have taken place in legislation and women’s awareness of their equal rights and interests; however, limitations and challenges, like disparities between different women groups in addition to gender disparity, continue to exist. Second, factors for limitations and challenges are discussed: the out-of-balance social development arising from economic-advancement-prioritizing policies, drawbacks in legislation and ineffective enforcement of laws and regulations, the strong influence of tradition, and the absence of good understanding or awareness of women’s development in the whole society, in particular in an environment dominated by market and consumer culture. Finally, this paper concludes that although women’s development in Guangdong under the current market system has been slowly moving forward overall, it is nonetheless hindered by both institutional and ideological barriers and different groups of women have different opportunities; also, a large-scale and major breakthrough is not likely to be realized until a comprehensive and balanced social development takes place, women themselves become aware of their own issues and are permitted to actually solve their own issues. In addition, a few suggestions are provided for future investigation: more studies on focus groups are necessary due to the variety of subgroups of women; participant observation is an appropriate methodology for accurate interpretation of perceptions and facts under the current educational level in China overall; and observation and monitoring of women’s advancement following the Eighteenth National Congress of CPC, which concluded in November of 2012, will be of particular value with regard to potential comprehensive reforms.

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Sociology Commons


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