Hong Kong, April 23 (IANS) International NGO Human Rights Watch on Monday criticised China's government and private sector companies for alleged gender discrimination against women in job advertising and employment.

According to a HRW report released in Hong Kong on Monday, in 2018 one in every five ads for public jobs in China was looking for "men only" or said "men preferred" while in 2017, 13 per cent of the job postings were aimed at male candidates, even in well-known private companies, Efe news reported.

"We are also talking about company owners such as Jack Ma, who likes to talk about their non-discrimination policies at work but then we find this," HRW's Executive Director Kenneth Roth said referring to the founder of Alibaba Group.

The 99-page report, "Only Men Need Apply: Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China", analysed more than 36,000 job advertisements published between 2013 and 2018 on Chinese job portals and social media platforms.

Big companies such as Alibaba had published ads for women based on their appearance while in another posting the company sought only male candidates for an operations support profile, the NGO said.

Other large companies had also used ads with discriminatory tones, such as search engine giant Baidu, which said in March 2017 that applicants for a content reviewers post must be men and have "strong ability to work under pressure, able to work on weekends, holidays and night shifts", the report said.

Many companies use the physical attributes of women to attract male workers, including tech giant Tencent, which posted an article in this regard on its official WeChat account in 2016, HRW found.

The report also criticised objectification of women when companies specify irrelevant physical attributes for women, such as a "good skin tone" and "trim figure".

"Although China's Labour Law and the Advertising Law ban gender discrimination, they lack a clear definition of what constitutes discrimination and there are few mechanisms of effective enforcement," the non-profit said.

The organisation said social activists fighting in this area often face harassment and intimidation with their social media accounts blocked.