Selective sex abortion causes 32 million excess males in China

Selective 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 (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."

Other policy options are to loosen enforcement of the one-child policy so that couples can have a second child if the first child is a girl, it said.

The paper does not deal with the social consequences of the extraordinary imbalance, but suggests there are rays of light.

Since since 2000, the government has launched policies aimed at countering the imbalance, with a "care for girls" awareness campaign and reforms of inheritance laws, it says.

Partially as a result, the sex ratio of birth did not change between 2000 and 2005, and in many urban areas, the ratio for the first and usually only birth is now within normal limits.

The figures come from a mini-census in China in 2005, covering one percent of the population, that sought to rectify flaws in a 2000 census. A total of 4.764 million people under the age of 20 were included in the study.

In a commentary, Tao Liu and Xing-yi Zhang of Jilin University said preferences for sons in China were starting to erode with urbanisation and industrialisation.

Social systems, pensions and higher standards of living eased the son's traditional role of caring for his parents.

China could also follow the lead of South Korea, he said.

In 1992, South Korea had "an astounding" 229-to-100 gender imbalance, which prompted it to launch a public-awareness campaign combined with strictly enforced laws on gender selection. By 2004, there were 110 male births to 100 females.

(c) 2009 AFP

Citation: Selective sex abortion causes 32 million excess males in China (2009, April 10) retrieved 23 May 2019 from
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User comments

Apr 10, 2009
lols thats gotta suck

Apr 10, 2009
I think they should sterilize all women making abortion without medical reason, so this women in future will not gave birth to boys. Many women will not make selective sex abortion if they will know it their only chance to have a child. It's cruel policy but it more humanly than make millions abortions every year.

Apr 10, 2009
If they are serious about correcting the male excess, they could implement a full reverse preference policy (for example tax benefits for female children) until the excess is reduced or eliminated. Keeping the bottom line is the strongest tradition. Maybe some benefits for emigrating sons, etc.

Apr 10, 2009
They'll just move to another country.

Best way to eliminate a rival culture, breed it out.

Indeed the most logical outcome, but certainly not without it's problems either. Immigrants, legal or not have enough problems. If they come bearing the banner "We come for your women" the policies could range from anything to massive forced deportations to being shot on sight....

And I'm talking OFFICIAL policies here...

Apr 10, 2009
Multiple partner marriages will do it also. Chinese need to bi curious on a large scale. Females should also flex some of their muscles more. Education and tolerance will help.

Apr 10, 2009
This is why China is one of the largest producers of sex toys. ;)

Apr 10, 2009
I was discussing this policy with my kids the other day. The discussion went like this, what is wrong with killing girls before they are born? Here in the US its ok to kill a boy or a girl before they are born for any reason under the sun. Also, since much of China (and India) it costs a lot to find out if the baby is a boy or girl, and since there is a preference for boys in their culture, and since no culture is superiour to another, a cost effective solution to unwanted girls is to wait until she is born and allow the parents up to 1 month chuck the girl into the trash. Reducing the girl population is very effective at reducing population since they are the ones that have babies. So in countries that are overpopulated, the governement should kill all girls under 2 years of age.

However after this logical planed parenthood, feministic, liberal discussion, our conservative religious morals creaped back in, and we realized that abortion is the murder of a human child. That a boy or girl, a downs child, a sick child, is fully human right from the time of conception and it is never right to kill a baby wether it is born or unborn, wether they are wanted or unwanted, wether they are convientient or not.

Apr 10, 2009
Gotta suck being male in china, especially if you are not so good at socializing.

Apr 11, 2009
Good for gaming companies though. All those young males with no women to tell them to get off the computer.

Apr 12, 2009
Gotta suck being male in china, especially if you are not so good at socializing.

On the bright side, great to be young female in China at this time. It's her market (regardless of country of origin)..

Apr 13, 2009
This problem will be largely resolved by China using it's military to "solve" one of it's boarder issues with it's neighbors. Taiwan could probably inflict several million casualties before they drown under an ocean of foot soldiers. I've also wondered what would happen if China "liberated" North Korea. Would anyone in the international community actually come to their defense?

Apr 13, 2009
Keep in mind, this is China, most of the women in "Rural Areas" don't have much of a choice, what the husband says goes.

Additionally, I cannot remember where I saw it, but I believe there are a very high number of kidnappings in China that are targeted towards women (yep they steal the women).

The women are then kept pretty much as servants and baby machines (again with no say).

That's gotta be tough.


Apr 13, 2009

Apparently the communist government tried to abolish wife kidnapping, but now it's back in style.


Apr 13, 2009

Article on Chinese Wife Kidnapping

Apr 13, 2009
The declining japanese population and now this!
That's a hard time for those who love asian girls ;)

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