China's role as a rising economic power is triggering a curious side effect in Shanghai, with women losing out on workplace equality and self-image. 'There is a strange phenomenon being generated by China's moves to leave behind the state-planned economy in favour of the market,' said Lu Jianmin, who heads the administrative office of the Shanghai Women's Federation. 'More women want to marry into money rather than rely on their own skills, and more are beginning to believe the media-generated view that a woman's place is in the home.' Ms Lu said Beijing had taken major steps to raise the legal and economic status of women in the era of the government-run economy. 'Now the top concerns of private employers are to increase profits and cut costs, and women workers are seen as costing more than men,' she said. Ms Lu said women had borne the brunt of state-owned companies laying off workers and were less likely than men to be hired by Chinese firms. As the state loosened its grip over the media, women's collective image was under attack in movies, newspapers, advertisements and television soap operas, which were increasingly returning to traditional stereotypes. When it took power 50 years ago, the Communist Party vowed to eradicate centuries-old Confucian values that made women virtually the property of their parents or husbands. A principle of the communists' constitution was that women could own and inherit property and laws banned workplace discrimination. 'There is still discrimination and inequality when employers hire women,' said Ms Mi, an official at Shanghai's Legal System Office. 'Employers see women as more costly in terms of maternity leave, because women tend to take off more time to take care of their children, and because they are legally entitled to earlier retirement than men.' Ms Mi said the Shanghai Government recently announced it would pay the basic hospital costs and work leave benefits for women residents. 'It will take a long, long time to wipe out discrimination against women,' she said. Ms Lu said Shanghai now placed a priority on naming women to higher government posts and the federation was trying to encourage employers, companies and institutions into gender-neutral policies. Periodic surveys by the Women's Federation in Shanghai over the past decade of market reforms showed that 'more and more women in the 35- to 49-year-old age group agreed with the statement that 'a good marriage is better than a good job' '. She said support for the view that a woman could best rise on her husband's coat tails rose in inverse proportion to the respondent's education level. 'For now and the foreseeable future, market reforms seem to be triggering a backlash that favours traditional roles for women,' Ms Lu said.