Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Anthropology


This thesis studies the issue of domestic work in urban China as related to sex segregation in the labor market and traditional gender ideology. The data suggest that the unequal situation in the household is closely related to the above two factors, especially the first one. Sex segregation in the labor force can be characterized by three features. As in most other countries, Chinese women are under-represented in many high-priority, prestigious occupations and heavily concentrated in other, lower status, lower paying occupations. Furthermore, although women only hold one-third of the positions in the state-owned enterprises, they account for half of the work force in the collective enterprises, which do not have most of the benefits and privileges that state-owned ones do. Lastly, with China's rapid economic development in recent years, sex segregation in the labor force has been worsened. Enterprises, driven by profit motive, increasingly discriminate against women, even female college graduates. Sex segregation in the labor force is closely connected to men's and women's different educational levels. Higher levels of education tend to help more in obtaining a higher position. Women, with average lower levels of education, are more likely to remain the lower positions in the work force. Traditional gender ideology, though not as openly and overwhelmingly present in people's mind as it used to be, is still affecting people's domestic work behavior. In the families of those who think that a wife should have a greater responsibilities for domestic work, the work is more likely to be done by the wife alone and less likely to be done by the husband alone or by shared efforts of both husband and wife. It is also reflected in husbands' and wives' attitudes toward each other's jobs. In the families of those who think that the husband's career is more valuable than the wife's, the domestic work is much more likely to be done by the wife alone, instead of by shared efforts, and vice versa. Women, who hold lower positions in the work place, such as factory workers, service workers, or government workers, are more likely to take a larger share of domestic work than those who hold a higher position, such as officials in the workplace or educational professionals. Sex segregation does play a role in the domestic work patterns at home. All those factors help to explain the unequal situation in domestic sharing pattern at home. Women, with lower levels of education, lower relative position in the work place, a less valuable career, and lesser financial contribution, are stated to take over more of the family responsibilities. There have been dramatic improvements. At least people are more likely to "say" in the equalitarian way, though they are still not acting likewise. If women will be given more education opportunities and therefore more employment opportunities, the situation will get much better.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Yong Li April, 1994