China mother
Li Yan (L), pregnant with her second child, lies on a bed as her daughter places her head on her mother's stomach in Hefei, Anhui province February 20, 2014. Reuters

China’s newly-modified family planning and population control policies seemed like something to celebrate for couples who wanted to have more children. Unfortunately, many women in China who plan on taking advantage of the more lenient policies have found themselves being discriminated against by potential employers.

At the end of last year, Beijing decided to reform the country’s 20-year-old controversial population control law, the One-Child policy, to allow couples where at least one person is an only child to have two children. The amendments to the policy, or so-called two-child policy, did not go into effect instantaneously for all the nation and were instead implemented at the local levels.

In Shanghai, the local government approved the two-child policy on Saturday, making it the seventh region in China to formally adopt the new guidelines. However, different local authorities are able to stipulate specific conditions. In Beijing, the specifications for couples are much more rigid. According to magazine Caijing, Beijing parents who already have one child must wait until the mother turns 28, or the first child turns four before having their second child.

The specific scheduling that the policy allows has been perceived as an obstacle for some employers, who worry hiring a woman planning on having two children would increase “risk.”

State-run publication Global Times reported that female job applicants have been facing increased job discrimination in an already male-dominated working environment, because employers are more reluctant to pay for two maternity-leave periods. “An interviewer asked me if I was going to have two children, and I did not know how to answer,” one young woman named Lin Qiao, currently without children, from central coast province of Zhejiang, said to the paper. “Having children is also making a contribution to society, but they [employers] treat us like enemies, which is so unfair.”

One unnamed hiring manager at a Hangzhou-based advertising firm revealed to the newspaper that it is specifically hiring fewer females as a result of the policy changes. “It’s a small company, and we hire many young graduates,” the HR manager said. “If some of them choose to have more than one child, the risk will be too high to handle.”

Even prior to the policy changes, women in China were already frequently discriminated against in the hiring process. It is common practice among employers to post job listing specifying gender, height, weight and other specifications for candidates to be considered.