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January 6, 2012

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Shanghai women overall lag men in education, but not among young

DESPITE a narrowing gap in the past decade, Shanghai women still lag their male peers in education levels due to history and the increasing number of migrant women in the city.

But for the young generation, women have surpassed men - a trend that is accelerating.

Overall, local women have received an average 10.9 years of education while the number for men is 11.56 years, according to a report released yesterday by the Shanghai Women's Federation. The survey, based on a probe into Shanghai women's social status, ran for a year and ended on December 1, 2011. It involved 3,090 male and female participants over 18 years old.

Zhang Lili, president of the federation, said surveyors went door to door to interview local households, including permanent residents and migrant families in the city.

Lu Jianjun, a federation official, said the education gap can be attributed to historic problems as many women were deprived of schooling due to gender bias before 1949.

"In those days, boys were sent to school while girls were sent to work or help with family chores," said Lu. "In some rural areas, girls even began to help their parents in farming or fisheries without finishing primary school."

In addition, the influx of female laborers into the city has affected the overall numbers, as their education levels are relatively low, Lu said.

However, the average education of women aged 18 to 30 is 13.8 years, above the men's figure by 0.18 years. Lu said that young women first surpassed men in 2005 and that the lead has been growing steadily.

The report also said the percentage of women 18 to 30 years old holding a bachelor's degree or above was 44.6 percent, 6.6 percentage points higher than their male counterparts. Lu said this was mainly because local parents have put more emphasis on children's education compared to 10 years ago.

Along with education levels, Shanghai women's social status has risen substantially in the past decade, and there is significant improvement in health and income.

More than 56 percent of the female respondents said their health was "very good" or "quite good," up 21.9 percentage points from the figure of 2000. The percentage of women taking health checks and pelvic examinations increased by 21.7 percentage points and 13.2 percentage points, respectively, over that of 10 years ago.

In 2000, the average annual income of employed women was only 70.4 percent that of men, but the figure rose to 81.5 percent in 2010, the report said.


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