Gender Disparities in Self-employment in Urban China's Market Transition: Income Inequality, Occupational Segregation and Mobility Processes

Qian Forrest ZHANG, Singapore Management University


This paper presents the first quantitative analysis of gender disparities in self employment in urban China. It documents the extent of gender income inequality in self employment. By disaggregating self-employment into three occupational classes, it shows the gender segregation within self-employment—women were concentrated in the financially least rewarding segment—and identifies it as a main source of the gender income inequality. It examines a range of determinants of participation in self employment—family structure, family background, and career history—and how their gender-specific effects contributed to gender segregation. Although using data from a 1996 national survey, this study captures two key processes that shaped the structure of self-employment in contemporary urban China: the restructuring of the state sector and the growth of financial returns and social status in private sector, both of which contributed to the formation of gender segregation in self-employment.