BEIJING (AP) – Abortions of girl fetuses are expected to leave China with 24 million more men than women over the next decade, according to a study that warns the imbalance will dash many young men's chance at marriage and lead to increased crime.
China enforces strict family planning controls, including limiting most couples to having one child. Because of a traditional preference for male heirs, many families terminate pregnancies of girl babies in order to be able to continue trying for a boy. Infanticide of baby girls has also become a problem.
The study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, reported in Chinese state media this week, specifically said such preferences were behind the ballooning imbalance.
“Sex-specific abortions are extremely commonplace, especially in rural areas,” the CASS report said. “The phenomenon of abortions of female fetuses is very serious.”
China bans tests to determine the fetus' sex for non-medical reasons, but they are still commonly done, mainly by underground private clinics in the countryside.
The report said the male-female ratio at birth in China was 119 males to 100 females, with the gap as high as 130 males for every 100 females in some provinces. In industrialized countries, the ratio is 107 to 100.
The report is similar to other studies in recent years that warn of serious social problems because of the gap.
The official Global Times newspaper quoted researcher Wang Guangzhou as saying men with lower incomes would have trouble finding spouses in rural areas, leading to crime problems. The newspaper also said abductions and trafficking of women were widespread in areas with excess numbers of men.
The CASS study mirrors a report published last April in the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, that said China has 32 million more young men than young women because parents facing strict birth limits abort female fetuses to have a son.
The BMJ study found even higher gender ratios, with 140 boys for every 100 girls in the 1-4 age range in Jiangxi and Henan provinces. The figures were based on data from 2005.
China imposed strict birth controls in the 1970s to limit growth of its huge population, noting that resources, especially land, were increasingly strained and that changes were needed in its new push to modernize. The government says the controls have prevented an additional 400 million births in the world's most populous country of 1.3 billion.