China recognises dangers of gender imbalance

Likely to have 30 million men of marriageable age sans partners by 2020

Beijing, January 23:

China will focus on correcting a potentially destabilising gender imbalance in coming years, while its draconian “one child” family planning policy will remain in force, officials said today.

Under current birth trends, the world’s most populous country is expected to have up to 30 million men of marrying age without partners in 2020, a situation which could lead to social instability, leading population officials said.

“The gender imbalance is currently a problem that must be resolved in an urgent manner,” Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, told a press briefing.

“To resolve this problem will be difficult. We expect that it will take between 10 and 15 years to normalise the gender imbalance at birth in the Chinese population.” Even if the government succeeds in correcting the balance within this deadline — a big if, according to experts — the after-effects of the skewed ratio will continue generations into the future.

Zhang’s remarks came as the government issued a statement saying, “The increasingly unbalanced sex ratio is a hidden danger for society that will affect social stability,” Xinhua news agency reported.

In 2005, 118 baby boys were born for every 100 girls, a ratio that has become increasingly unbalanced during China’s 20 years of economic reform, according to a population report issued last week.

The imbalance has even reached 130 boys to 100 girls in some prosperous areas like Guangdong province in the nation’s south, the report said.

The imbalance is largely rooted in China’s traditional views, which favour boys over girls thanks largely to men continuing to be seen as the family bread winners, officials said.

Choosing the sex of the child has become more common as prospective parents in the cities — who face financial penalties and social stigma if they have more than one child — frequently abort their baby once tests show it is a girl.

Zhang denied that the nation’s widening gender imbalance was a result of the “one child” family planning policy, but insisted that such pre-natal gender selection would be strictly banned.

Wang Guoqiang, vice director of the population commission, also said the ‘one child policy’ allowed for rural couples to have two children if the first was a boy, and that children of one-child families were also allowed to have two children.