In Chinese homes, gains in equality

When it was first reported last month, a minor new statistic on parenting in China hardly raised a shrug. The China Welfare Institute of Development Research Center found that the number of fathers in Shanghai serving as primary nighttime caregivers for their children rose by 5% since 2018. That starts from a low base. Nationwide, the amount of childcare provided by fathers is negligible.

Yet that modest shift in Shanghai may reflect a wider and quieter trend. Contrary to China’s decline in global surveys on gender equality in recent years, a paper published Thursday by two Chinese academics found that, within Chinese households, the reverse is happening. That insight is likely not to go unnoticed by officials in Beijing because its key driver is the target of state control: the internet.

Women “tend to have relatively lower bargaining power within their households, reflecting the established societal structure in China” with respect to owning property, managing household chores, and caring for children, the authors noted. “The use of the Internet significantly shapes women’s perceptions of gender roles, fostering a transition from traditional to egalitarian perspectives.”

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