Sun, Mar 10, 2019 - Page 15 News List

China’s start-ups hunt for ‘good-looking’ tech workers

By Lulu Yilun Chen  /  Bloomberg

A year ago, China’s largest technology companies were lambasted for posting job ads seeking male employees by using “good-looking” female workers to try to lure coders. The giants scrubbed their posts in response.

Yet the next generation of China’s tech superstar wannabes apparently have not gotten the message.

On the country’s two largest job Web sites — Liepin (獵聘) and Zhaopin (招聘) — thousands of ads for Internet companies use language that suggests bias based on appearance, gender or age. That includes postings for US-listed online education site Laix Inc as well as UniCareer (職優你) and iZhaohu (愛照護).

Some ask candidates to “have presentable facial features” or be “under the age of 30.” More than 1,000 postings used beauty as bait, with many boasting that they employ “good-looking men and women.”

The prevalence of the posts, more than a year after the #Metoo movement became a global phenomenon, highlights the challenges China faces in enforcing fair hiring practices.

This approach to filling tech positions contrasts with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) pledge to fight against workplace discrimination amid a shrinking workforce, even as the country cracks down on feminist advocates and scrapes the Web of #Metoo content.

“Chinese tech companies are falling behind Western peers and need better awareness of equal opportunity and more clearly defined policies banning discrimination,” said Wang Yaqiu (王亞秋), a researcher at Human Rights Watch, a non-profit group that has conducted studies about the issue in China. “Discriminatory practices can be even worse at smaller companies because they lack the scrutiny that publicly traded companies are under.”

Liepin and Zhaopin do not generate the job listings, instead acting as conduits in publicizing positions.

Zhaopin said in an e-mailed statement that it does not allow discriminatory terms in recruitment ads.

It also said it has made efforts to check posted ads and to ensure that they do not violate the laws in China, adding that job seekers can flag violations.

The ads from the start-ups came after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴), Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊) and Baidu Inc (百度), the powerhouses of China’s Internet, were criticized for posting jobs open only to men.

They removed the ads, with Tencent and Baidu apologizing. Alibaba said it implements strict policies on equal opportunity.

China bans job discrimination based on gender and stipulates the importance of equal opportunity. Yet a lack of enforcement means there is few repercussions to discriminatory hiring practices.

Many of the job posts are for positions where looks should be considered irrelevant — programmers, assistants or administrative staff.

Shanghai-based iZhaohu, a hiring platform for on-demand nurses, said it has attracted series A investment.

Its job postings requested that applicants have “presentable facial features.”

“Even though looks seemingly are irrelevant, Chinese Internet companies like to use these catch phrases a lot,” said Lion Niu, a Beijing-based senior consultant at headhunter CGL Consulting Group, which counts Alibaba and Meituan Dianping (美團點評) among its clients.

“In some divisions that are male-dominant, companies still think by hiring a woman, they can boost morale for the coders,” Niu said.

Companies still use beauty as bait. Laix, a US$600 million US-listed online education platform also known as Liulishuo (流利說), said in its ad that the company had “foreign and Chinese beauties and hunks” in trying to hire software engineers.

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