Thursday, April 09, 2009

One Child Policy Has Caused Lopsided Demographics in China

elective abortion in favour of males has left China with 32 million more boys than girls, creating an imbalance that will endure for decades, an investigation released on Friday warned.

The probe provides ammunition for those experts who predict China's obsession with a male heir will sow a bitter fruit as men facing a life of bachelorhood fight for a bride.

"Although some imaginative and extreme solutions have been suggested, nothing can be done now to prevent this imminent generation of excess men," says the paper, published online by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

In most countries, males slightly outnumber females -- between 103 and 107 male births for every 100 female births.

But in China and other Asian countries, the sex ratio has widened sharply as the traditional preference for boys is reinforced by the availability of cheap ultrasound diagnostics and abortion.

This has enabled Chinese couples to use pregnancy termination to prevent a female birth, a practice that is officially condemned as well as illegal.

In China, an additional factor has been the "one-child" policy.

In general, parents who have a second child are liable to pay a fine and contribute disproportionately towards the child's education.

But in some provinces, a second child is permitted if the first is a girl or if parents are experiencing "hardship." And in a few others, couples are allowed a second child and sometimes a third, regardless of sex.

In the paper, Zhejiang university professors Wei Xing Zhu and Li Lu and Therese Hesketh of University College London found that in 2005 alone, China had more than 1.1 million excess male births.

Among Chinese aged below 20, the greatest gender imbalances were among one-to-four-year-olds, where there were 124 male to 100 female births, with 126 to 100 in rural areas, they found.

The gap was especially big in provinces where the one-child policy was strictly enforced and also in rural areas.

Jiangxi and Henan provinces had ratios of over 140 male births compared to female births in the 1-4 age group.

Among second births, the sex ratio was even higher, at 143 males to 100 female. It peaked at a massive 192 boys to 100 girls in Jiangsu province.

Only two provinces -- Tibet and Xinjiang, the most permissive in terms of the one-child policy -- had normal sex ratios.

"Sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males," the paper said. "(...) Enforcing the existing ban on sex selective abortion could lead to normalisation of ratios."


More some other time.


Tom said...

I've also heard studies about what happens to displaced males (due to their overabundance) in such societies. I think the study was more focused on India, however.

Metalraptor said...

You can't help but laugh at least until the reality of the situation sinks in. The Chinese middle class is rapidly expanding, and is starting to travel. There are at least three guys in China for every girl. Where are they going to get their women from? Answer: it seems likely that they will immigrate to other countries, and thus compete with guys in first world countries for girls. Everything is interconnected, I guess.

Alden said...

This isn't just a lonelyhearts story either -- the men that are left behind in the marriage lottery will be in the lower strata of society, and it is conceivable that their discontent might spill over into larger-scale social distress. I'm sure that the Powers that Bein China watch all such threats to social stability closely.

It has been suggested that one way China might channel all this discontent would be to get militarily adventurous -- lots of cannon fodder, and all of the aggression focused outward, rather than inward (consistent with their existing nationalism strategies for reducing discontent).

I'm not sure I agree that this will be the case -- these things are always much more complicated than they seem at first glance -- but any military or government planner worth anything needs to treat this in the framework of "developed capacity equals intent", at least on a strategic planning level.

Noel Maurer said...

I can't imagine China using its, uh, "cannon fodder" to invade nearby countries.

That won't work these days. Armies organized that way are pretty much useless for offensive operations against a modern military.

The experiment, in fact, was run in 1980. It turned out badly for the People's Liberation Army.