RWI recently supported a group of Chinese researchers to pay a visit to Stockholm on the topic of anti-discrimination in employment.
During the two and half day visit, researchers held in-depth discussions and exchanges with both government institutions and civil society organisations dealing with equality issues in Sweden. This included the Equality Ombudsman Office, the Swedish Agency for Participation, the Cooperation Group for Ethnic Organisations in Sweden, the Swedish Women’s Lobby， Equally Unique (the Swedish Federation Human Rights for Persons with Disabilities), and the Centre for Equal Rights.
We asked a few questions to the researchers about the visit.
What did you most gain from this research visit?
I now have a better understanding of the anti-discrimination system in Sweden. I was most impressed by the NGOs role and their relationships with the government in promoting of anti-discrimination work. (Liu Xiaonan, the Executive Director of the Constitutionalism Research Institute at China University of Political Science and Law)
The active participation of civil society in advocacy and promotion of anti-discrimination impressed me the most. Discrimination does not exist alone, but rather has a connection with the democratic development of a country. (He Xia, an associate professor, Law School of Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, China)
First, the anti-discrimination legislation paradigm has shifted from the scattered legislations (legislating for each group — the disabled, gender, ethnic minority etc.) to a uniform one. To enact a single law to provide protection to all relevant vulnerable groups, such as the disabled, ethnic minorities, gender, unifies standards of legal protection legislation as well as saves legislative resources.
Second, the establishment of specialised anti-discrimination bodies will provide effective support for anti-discrimination work. Specialised bodies can balance the gap between workers and employers, and can contribute to eliminating discrimination at the structural level through impact litigation, thus benefitting more people.
Third, anti-discrimination instruments have been diversified. In addition to traditional direct interventions such as legislation and litigation, flexible approaches, like investigation, analysis and advocacy are also widely used here. These flexible means establish an effective pressure mechanism for those who perform poorly on anti-discrimination.
Fourth, public-private partnerships have formed an anti-discrimination network. NGOs participate widely in anti-discrimination work, playing a role as the government’s eyes and ears. They interact and cooperate with government agencies, and jointly promote anti-discrimination. (Li Cheng, a lecturer of Law School of Sichuan University)
What impact will this research visit have on your future research?
This research visit lays a sound foundation for my further research and it is a very good beginning. (Liu Xiaonan)
The research visit inspired me to focus more on how to integrate civil society in the process of anti-discrimination in China. (He Xia)
First, I want to study specialised anti-discrimination bodies, including their legal status, jurisdiction, and the role played in elimination of discrimination.
Second, I’d like to study anti-discrimination cases dealt with in Sweden and European Union. I’d like to summarise from those cases relevant experience, logic of reasoning, etc., to provide technical support for Chinese courts when they are dealing with anti-discrimination cases.
Third, I want to study relevant methods and approaches to eliminate discrimination. Apart from prohibiting discrimination by law, other measures such as construction of a barrier-free environment, annual report of employee composition etc. may also press relevant parties to work together against discrimination. (Li Cheng)
More about RWI’s project: Research and Policy Formulation on the Anti-discrimination Law in Employment
Discrimination is a prevailing social problem around the world, says Chen Tingting, RWI’s programme officer in China who led the study visit. “In China, discrimination on the grounds of gender, household registration status, age, health status etc. remains serious in various fields, such as employment, education, public service, and has undergone for a long period unnoticed,” she says. “Discrimination has, undoubtedly, seriously infringed upon Chinese citizens’ right of equality and other fundamental rights.”
With support from RWI, the Constitutionalism Research Institute (CRI), China University of Political Science and Law, initiated a project on supporting research and consultations that will feed into the drafting of a law on non-discrimination in employment in 2015.
There is no law against discrimination in employment in China, and discrimination against women, the disabled, ethnic minorities, etc. is rife. Over the past few years however, there have been some positive policy developments whereby some ministries and government agencies have issued papers and “guiding opinions” on the problems associated with discrimination. Most importantly, the discussions at the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC which met in late 2013, and which was widely seen to indicate China’s policy direction for the next decade or so, included references to the need to remove institutional barriers and employment discrimination that affect equal employment.
It is therefore timely to promote a law against discrimination in employment law as it fits in with the trend of current reforms measures. There have been previous efforts to submit various draft laws and policy recommendations in this field, but more updated research is necessary in order to reflect current concerns and respond to recent reform initiatives, especially with regards to migrant workers’ employment rights. There is also the need to create better awareness about discrimination in employment as a rights issue, and the negative effect it has on the individual as well as society as a whole.
This project is financed by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).