A tutor shows students how to care for a baby during training classes for neonatal nurses in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region. The free training course is intended to help more women enter the employment market.
Women with more than one child are often pushed out of jobs.
Arising number of women are opting to become full-time mothers after having a second child, as a result of discrimination in the workplace, according to an investigation conducted by researchers from Renmin University of China in Beijing.
However, many families are unable to support a full-time mother, which means many women are struggling to hold down a job and also fulfill their role within the home, said Ge Yuhao, a researcher and associate professor at the National Academy of Development and Strategy, one of the country's top think tanks, which is affiliated with the university.
As a result, many women face serious career challenges, especially as many employers are reluctant to offer them key positions because of the belief that they will need to spend large amounts of time and energy taking care of their children.
Experts said women with two young children are less likely to gain promotion, and noted that sometimes employers make their lives unbearable by constantly increasing their workload with the aim of forcing them to resign.
That was the experience of Mi Lai. In 2014, the 31-year-old quit her job at a multinational company in Beijing and became a full-time mother after she had her second child. "I don't regret my choice," she said.
"When I was pregnant with my second baby, my boss deliberately gave me a lot of tasks to ensure I was fully occupied at work. While that was acceptable, what I could not stand was that he always called, texted or emailed during my one-hour breastfeeding break for my 7-month-old first child, just to check that I was back at work on time. It was very frustrating," she added.
Ge said many companies are reluctant to hire women with two young children because their circumstances inevitably mean they have to assume greater family responsibilities, and a job will never take precedence over a baby.
According to the survey conducted by Ge's team in January, almost all the respondents－all of whom have two children－conceded that family duties had affected their performance at work following the birth of their second child.
Despite China's growing wealth and rising incomes in large cities, only 8 percent of respondents hired domestic workers to help around the home, and 30 to 40 percent of families rely on grandparents to provide assistance, according to the survey.
Ge pointed out that companies are dedicated to making profits, so the main principle of recruitment is to make the best use of employees, which makes good business sense.
Hiring younger women, who are likely to get pregnant and take two sets of maternity leave, lasting from four to six months each, doesn't sound like a smart choice, he added.
In the late 1970s, China introduced the family planning policy, under which most couples were only allowed to have one child. In October 2015, the second-child policy was announced, and it came into effect in January the following year.
The government provides a special payment to women when they give birth, while employers pay their salaries during maternity leave.
Qi Wei, 35, who works at a State-owned enterprise in Beijing, had her second child last year.
When she returned to work after maternity leave, the post of head of department came up for grabs, and although Qi was the most experienced candidate, she lost out to a less-qualified male colleague.
"I believe the reason is obvious; I have two kids to take care of," she said.
According to Ge, discrimination against women in the recruitment market is endemic because employers reason that most will have children at some point in their career.