(from Yahoo News) BEIJING (AFP) – More than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age could find themselves without spouses in 2020, state media reported on Monday, citing a study that blamed sex-specific abortions as a major factor.

The study, by the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, named the gender imbalance among newborns as the most serious demographic problem for the country’s population of 1.3 billion, the Global Times said.

“Sex-specific abortions remained extremely commonplace, especially in rural areas,” where the cultural preference for boys over girls is strongest, the study said, while noting the reasons for the gender imbalance were “complex.”

Researcher Wang Guangzhou said the skewed birth ratio could lead to difficulties for men with lower incomes in finding spouses, as well as a widening age gap between partners, according to the Global Times.

Another researcher quoted by the newspaper, Wang Yuesheng, said men in poorer parts of China would be forced to accept marriages late in life or remain single for life, which could “cause a break in family lines.”

“The chance of getting married will be rare if a man is more than 40 years old in the countryside. They will be more dependent on social security as they age and have fewer household resources to rely on,” Wang said.

The study said the key contributing factors to the phenomenon included the nation’s family-planning policy [the One Child Policy], which restricts the number of children citizens may have, as well as an insufficient social security system.

The situation influenced people to seek male offspring, who are preferred for their greater earning potential as adults and thus their ability to care for their elderly parents. [NOTE: In much of rural China, couples have a strong preference for male children for cultural and financial reasons. A male child will inherit the possessions of his parents, carry on the family name and any business, and work to support the parents when they are too old to support themselves. A female child, in comparison, will serve only to marry into another family, and contribute nothing to the property of her parents. Thus the demand for a male child is easily strong enough that rural families will often selectively abort baby girls before birth.]

The Global Times said abductions and trafficking of women were “rampant” in areas with excess numbers of men, citing the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

Illegal marriages and forced prostitution were also problems in those areas, it said.

Authorities put the normal male-female ratio at between 103-107 males for every 100 females. But in 2005, the last year for which data were made available, there were 119 boys for every 100 girls, the newspaper said.

However, the study said that in some areas the male-female ratio was as high as 130 males for every 100 females, a report by the Mirror Evening newspaper said.

The report said the study urged the government to relax the so-called “one-child” policy and study the possibility of encouraging “cross-country marriages.”

China first implemented its population control policy in 1979, generally limiting families to one child, with some exceptions for rural farmers, ethnic minorities and other groups.

It has said the policy has averted 400 million births.

Researchers said the gender imbalance problem cropped up in the late 1980s when the use of ultrasound technology became more prevalent.

This allowed women to easily determine the sex of their [babies], leading to an increased number of sex-selective abortions.

NOTE: This article was first published at Yahoo News on January 11, 2010.

Copyright ©2010 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. The information contained in this AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Press. Visit news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100111/hl_afp/chinapopulationmenmarriage/print for the original post.


1. How many men of marrying age in China could find themselves without spouses in 2020?

2. Describe the cause of this problem.

3. Which men are most affected by the skewed birth ratio?

4. What additional problems/crimes has the one-child policy created?

5. a) What group conducted the study on gender imbalance in China?
b) What recommendation are they making to the Chinese government?

6. What lesson do you think can be learned by the Chinese government’s attempt to control population growth in such a way?


The one-child policy …is the population control policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). … It officially restricts the number of children married urban couples can have to one, although it allows exemptions for several cases, including rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without any siblings themselves….

The Chinese government introduced the policy in 1979 to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China, and authorities claim that the policy has prevented more than 250 million births from its implementation to 2000. The policy is controversial both within and outside China because of the manner in which the policy has been implemented, and because of concerns about negative economic and social consequences. The policy has been implicated in an increase in forced abortions and female infanticide, and has been suggested as a possible cause behind China’s gender imbalance….

The policy is enforced at the provincial level through fines that are imposed based on the income of the family and other factors. Population and Family Planning Commissions exist at every level of government to raise awareness about the issue and carry out registration and inspection work [to ensure that every couple only have a child when it is their turn to do so, designated by the committee]. (from wikipedia.org)


Read about additional problems caused by China’s One-Child Policy at lifenews.com/int787.html.

For background on China, go to the U.S. State Department website at state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/18902.htm.

For a map of China, go to worldatlas.com.

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