Gender Equality and Fertility Preferences in China

Rui LU , Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Anne H. Gauthier, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Gert Stulp, University of Groningen

Gender inequality has been recognized as a classic explanation for the fertility decline and the continuous low fertility rate. However, recent cross-country comparative research shows that there is no uniformed shape for gender equality and fertility preference, and that it varies across time and societies. China is a particularly interesting case to investigate because its fertility rate has declined to a very low level, and it has very specific gender equality context with a strong expectation for women’s labour force participation, but also an unequal division of unpaid work resulting in a double burden for women. This paper applies a longitudinal design using 7 waves of China Health Nutrition Survey (CHNS) to explore the influence of gender equality on women’s fertility intentions in China. It compares three dimensions of gender equality: 1. the gender division of workload in paid work; 2. the gender division of workload in unpaid work; and 3. the distorted division of paid work and unpaid between couples. The results show that there is an equal gender distribution of paid work but an unequal division of unpaid work. The absolute workload burden from paid and unpaid work is found to have a significant effect on fertility intention. However, we find no evidence for the negative influence of unequal division of paid and unpaid work. This suggests that the gender inequality theory do not apply to the fertility preference in China, but it is rather the sheer workload in absolute terms that seems to matter .

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 Presented in Session 120. Gender Equality and Fertility