Index of articles, click here
Girls make gains on boys
The annual male-female birth ratio in China slightly narrowed by 1.11 points to 119.45 boys born for every 100 girls last year, the first drop since 2006, a population official said on June 3.
The figure indicated the ratio of males to females was about 119 to 100 and the widening gender gap was slowing, Li Bin, director of China's Population and Family Planning Commission, told a work conference in Hefei, Anhui Province. The country has seen the sex ratio at birth increasing since the 1980s and it has been recorded as high as 130 males for every 100 females in some provinces.
Chinese traditionally hold a preference for male heirs, especially in rural areas. Wider use of ultrasound and abortions has also caused the imbalance to increase significantly in recent years.
"Looked at from a comprehensive perspective, the lopsided sex ratio at birth has started to be contained," Li said. She said it would take many more years to consolidate the trend, calling for more vigilance in rooting out pre-birth gender scans and abortions that do not serve a medical purpose.
Expert: Discriminaton creates gemder-ratio imbalance
Experts have suggested more effective action against illegal pregnancy gender scans and discrimination of women so as to curb the sex ratio imbalance in China.
Zhai Zhenwu, dean of the School of Sociology and Population, Renmin University of China, said gender discrimination was the major cause of the problem. "An imbalanced sex ratio is widely found in the countries and cultures that favor boys," he said, adding that rural areas have reported the most serious sex ratio imbalance.
Chinese families prefer boys mostly because, traditionally, girls will leave the family after getting married and the parents will have no one to look after them in old age, Zhai said. "Adequate social security, especially a pension system in rural areas, will ease concerns about this issue."
Technically, widespread use of ultrasound scans during pregnancy has made gender scans easier and more accurate. Although the country bans ultrasound scans to distinguish infants' gender, it still occurs. "Some private practicing doctors and small hospitals are providing this illegal service," Zhai said. "In recent years, the services have become very sophisticated and gender scans can be arranged at the client's home."
Yuan Xin, director of the Population and Development Institute of Nankai University in Tianjin, said stopping discrimination against women will help curb the sex ratio imbalance. "Chinese women still lag behind men in career development, political and family life, except for education level," he said. "If women's social status improves, parents will feel better about raising a female child."
A report issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences last December estimated that China's male population at marriageable age will be 24 million more than female counterparts in 2020.
The third eye: Gender imbalance not as bad as we thought
By Huang Daohen
More than 24 million Chinese men of marriageable age could find themselves without spouses in 2020, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said last year. But things are not as bad as they may seem.
While the female population lags in census figures, study shows there are girl babies hidden every year in order to get around the nation's birth-control policy.
One example cited by Britain's The Daily Telegraph is Fu Yang, a 47-year-old man living in a small village outside Xiamen, Fujian Province. Fu said he had had seven daughters within 10 years.
To keep them, Fu said he had to flee across three provinces and hide some of the girls with friends, but "we have a decent respect for life. In China, we think that when you have a child it is like dropping a piece of your own body from you, and we never considered the other options."
What happens is that the unplanned baby girls usually do not get registered with the authorities when they are born. Fu said the families would wait until they are 6 or 7 and by then, the local governments tend not to care as much. While his family may be an extreme case, there is evidence to suggest that it isn't all that rare.
Liang Zhongtang, a demographer and former member of the expert committee of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, found that people might be hiding roughly 3 million babies from the government each year. According to Liang's research, in 1990, the national census recorded 23 million births. But by the 2000 census, there were 26 million 10-year-old children, an increase of 3 million.
"Normally, you would expect there to be fewer 10-year-olds than newborns, because of infant mortality," he said. Liang's findings suggest that the gender imbalance may not be as severe as the statistics suggest.
Index of articles, click here