In the peak of the traditional job-hunting season, many women say it is getting more difficult for them to find satisfactory employment. Lin Xia, 29, quit her job after giving birth to her first child. She is now preparing to return to work. After several inquiries at a job fair, she found that the employers were concerned about whether she had plans for a second child.
"I thought it would be easier to find a job after giving a birth," said Lin, who is from Chongqing. "I had to answer whether I will have a second child before I could get a chance for a job interview."
China dropped its decades-long, one-child policy in October to allow each family to have two children. This change has put 270 million married women of childbearing age in the position of choosing between family and work.
The employers also face big challenges as more female workers will have two maternity leaves for a total of seven to eight months.
In a survey recently published by classified advertising website Ganji.com, career women who might be considering having a second child were asked what kinds of pressure they might expect.
More than 76 per cent of the respondents mentioned concerns about the financial burden of raising two children, while more than 71 per cent said it would be difficult to balance career and family. Additionally, nearly 56 per cent said that having a second child would definitely have a negative effect on their career.
A survey conducted by Chongqing-based human resources website job.cq.qq.com found that over 70 per cent of job seekers believe that having a second child would make females less popular in the job market, although two-thirds of the employers said the policy will make no difference during their recruitment.
Liang Siqi, 23, a college graduate in Chongqing, said she will not plan to have two children if "it will definitely affect my career and personal life".
Feng Lijuan, a senior expert on human resources at 51job.com, a leading Chinese job finding platform, said she would not say "there is discrimination against career women".
"There is no doubt that with the economic downturn pressure, many employers, especially private companies, are facing growing human resources costs and falling profit rates. They have to consider the potential contribution of employees they are going to hire," said Feng.
"For example, if a job requires frequent business trips, extra work and more attention to work instead of family, a capable male candidate would be more suitable," Feng said.
Feng said Chinese women shoulder more family responsibility. "It is not only about maternity leave; a female employee might only fully get back to work after three to five years after having her first child.
"Taking the economic situation under consideration, it is not realistic to require companies, especially fast-growing startups, to give absolute equality when choosing their employees," added Feng. "It is not about gender choice. I would say this is a market choice."
Wang Yixin, a senior consultant at Zhaopin, said the positive side is that more companies are trying to attract more talent by providing support to career women.
"Different from before, it is not only employers choosing employees. Many talents, including professional career women, also choose employers," said Wang. "According to our survey, many large enterprises are very open to their employees' choice of having a second child."