China is cutting back its number of women workers because analysts believe they cannot contribute as much as men to senior leader Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, an official newspaper said Tuesday.

"The facts . . . have revealed that the development of productive forces will be hindered if the rate of women's employment is raised blindly," the English-language China Daily newspaper said in an unsigned commentary.It said many work units are experimenting with a system called "staged employment" in which women workers take a seven-year unpaid leave of absence after giving birth and then retire at age 40, presumably leaving their jobs to be filled by younger men.

The article said studies conducted in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China show the average male employee generates 1,900 yuan ($512) more in profit for an enterprise than a female employee with the same job and age.

"Women employees are physically weaker than men. And women bring a lot of problems to enterprises," the commentary said.