November 2014Monthly Archives

Height Discrimination in China

It’s not something you come across in most developed countries, although many professions have some common sense height restrictions.  However in China, discrimination due to height is quite open and expected.  Take the situation of two security guards in Dalian in North East China, one man was two inches taller than the other and hence received more money.   The reasoning was that the taller guard made people feel more secure due to his height, basically if you’re over 180 cms tall (about 5 ‘9″) you’ll get a premium tall rate.

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Now you could argue that increase height in a physical job like a security guard is acceptable, however it doesn’t stop there in China.  Height requirements are routinely specified in all sorts of careers – want to study tourism and hotel management in Huaqiao University?  Well you’ll need to be over 170cms tall for a man and 158cms for a women.  A company in Beijing is advertising for cleaners, who must be female over 162 cms tall.  Even if the job doesn’t specifiy this, many people (particularly tall ones!) will put their height on their CV, something that wouldn’t happen in most Western countries.

It’s difficult to see some of these adverts and job advertisements even the ones online due to the heavy restrictions in Chinese internet access.  You can get reasonable access if you find a reputable security or VPN provider which will at least bypass the content filtering – try this for information.

There have been several studies and most have found that height has a large effect on salary expectations particularly for women.  One study found that each centimetres above average will add about 2% to the women’s salary – the difference rises esepcially on higher salary scales.   Currently there is no legislation at all preventing this sort of discrimination although several Universities are working on some draft legislation to prevent discrimination based on physical characteristics like height.

One of the big problems here is  that this sort of discrimination is increasing divisions in what is already a society with many social and economic divisions.  The overall height of Chinese is rising greatly in tandem with the increase in economic prosperity.  This however is much marked in richer areas, where increased living standards and better nutrition mean people are generally taller.   Thus the richer groups are benefiting more and already large inequalities are growing larger.

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Internet Discrimination – A Real Issue

When the internet first came along, it was pretty wild, disorganized and often very hard to find stuff you were looking for.   The search engines were in their infancy, sometimes they’d help you find the information you were looking for but more often than not would propel you into completely random unrelated areas.

It was fascinating and exciting, probably largely because the concept was new and amazing.   I remember well having a chat with a welder from Houston in Texas about computers, using a very simple IRC client (Internet Relay Chat).  The concept was incredible, that my words were being transported down my telephone wires and almost instantly being read by a bloke called Alan sitting across the Atlantic.  Of course our children take all this for granted, and in some senses it’s kind of sad that  they missed out on that ‘moment of realization’ which many of us remember vividly.

Now my children have as many digital friends across the globe as they do in their local town.  It’s simply commonplace to communicate with people across the globe using a host of digital devices.   Search engines are increasingly efficient and usually home in on the information you need with minimal fuss, albeit with a growing sense of commercialism.

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However not all aspects of the internet have improved, and one of the most worrying trends is the growing level of filtering and censoring that is occurring.   In the first few years of the internet, it was virtually irrelevant  where you were located, we were all simply internet users.  I could see exactly the same from the UK as if I had logged in from Thailand, USA, China or Japan.  This is far from true nowadays where for a variety of reasons, the internet can look very different depending on where you log in from.

Blocks, filters and discrimination are common place – sometimes based on commercial reasons – others based on Government control.    The result is that your experience of the internet is greatly influenced by your physical location.  Do you want to watch all the latest movies on a the website Netflix, well you’ll need more than a subscription to the media giant – you’ll need to be in the USA.

Of course, the anarchic elements of the internet are constantly working hard to provide ways to work around these filters. You can use an American DNS for Netflix and fool it’s redirection, you can connect through a secure proxy to side step Government black lists.  It takes a little effort and some expenditure, but the unfettered version of the internet is still available if you try.  The problem is that for many even the inexpensive tools are out of reach, so for some living in places like China or Iran,  what you see online will be controlled by your Government.

It’s sad certainly that something that was once accessible to all, without distinction or discrimination is becoming like the rest of the world.   Slowly but surely tiers of internet access are  being established, due to blocks, filters and even access to infrastructure.  I might feel happy that I can use a VPN client and watch Channel 4 Online when I’m on holiday in Spain, but the reality is that it’s only available because I have the disposable income to buy  these tools.