Feminism and Gender Equality – Comparative Research from China and Germany

Event: Society and Politics

On April 21st 2016, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Shanghai jointly organized a workshop on the topic of “Feminism and Gender Equality – Comparative Research from China and Germany”. The workshop was followed the next day by a lecture of Dr. Regina Frey at the Shanghai Women’s Federation.

Thanks to the feminist movement of the late 1960s in Germany and State feminism in China, enormous progress concerning the participation of women in all spheres of life can be seen in both countries. And still: Work, time, money and power are until today far from being equally distributed between the sexes. What’s more alarming is that a conservative trend concerning gender and gender stereotypes is recently on the rise in Germany and China.

Against this backdrop, the workshop was intended to be a discussion board to analyze actual trends of gender (in)equality in Germany and China and enrich the debate by progressive research as well as best practice examples of political measures from both countries. It brought together German gender experts with well-known research scientists on gender from all over China and officials from the Shanghai Women’s Federation and the Shanghai Municipal Trade Union Council. 

The workshop included four sessions, examining the historical background and theoretical concepts of feminism in both countries, prevalent female role models and gender stereotypes, the situation of women in working life and the influence of global feminism on the national debate. 

Among the many findings, the question why women’s labor force participation rate has declined at a much faster pace than men’s in China and if this was a sign of discrimination by the market or rather a progress of individual choice was controversially discussed. As Germany shows an opposite development in this regard (female employment is on the rise), successful German political measures were assessed. A key concerning female employment in both countries is the stronger engagement of men when it comes to questions such as the compatibility of family and work or the just distribution of Care work within the family. This goes hand in hand with a critical assessment of male gender stereotypes which have been almost untouched in China in the last decades and are changing only on a slow pace in Germany.

The workshop was followed the next day by a lecture of Dr. Regina Frey at the Shanghai Women Federation. Being the Head of Agency of the Second Gender Equality Report, Frey gave a speech on “Gender equality over women’s and men’s life courses” and related findings from Germany. The Second Equality Report will be comprised of a report made by an independent Expert Commission and a statement of the Federal Government, and will be published in 2017. (The central results and recommendations for action from the first Gender Equality Report published in 2011 can be found here. PDF, English language.)

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