China’s Gender Imbalance Crisis ‘Most Serious In The World,’ Direct Result Of One-Child Policy

Mark SchiefelbeinAP Images

Health authorities in the nation of China have stated that the gender imbalance between male and female newborns in the country is “the most serious and prolonged” in the world. As one might guess, the crisis is a direct result of the strict one-child policy imposed by the Chinese government.

The one-child policy was introduced to the People’s Republic of China in 1979 as a measure to reduce social, economic, and environmental challenges the nation was facing. Prior to its implementation in the nation, the average fertility rate per woman was five plus children. After the policy was put into action, that number fell drastically to 1.61 average children per woman.

Over the course of 30 years, it has been estimated that nearly 400 million births have been averted. Perspectively, that’s more than the entire population currently living in the United States. Effectively, an entire generation of people were never born into the country.

According to a survey conducted in 2008 by the Pew Research Center, a reported 76 percent of Chinese citizens support the one-child policy, yet a generational dilemma is emerging.

Because of the strictness of the one-child policy and the nation’s traditional preference for sons, many families either abandon female newborns or abort the children altogether to ensure that their one-allowable child is a male. Roughly 118 boy children are born for every 100 girl children, a much higher ratio than that of the global average of 103 to 107 males born per 100 females, causing an imbalance that could have serious social instability in the country. Currently, there are about 700 million men to 667 million women in China.

Yuan Xin, a professor with the Institute of Population and Development at Nankai University, puts the problem into perspective.

“Men may have difficulties finding partners and getting married, with relationship stability suffering as a result. This could lead to social problems such as sex-related crimes, human trafficking and even children trafficking.”

Add to that the ever-diminishing labor pool caused by the reduction in population and the number of able-bodied males able to work. In the 1950s, the country saw a boom in births across the nation, but those citizens are reaching an age in which they can no longer work and are leaving their posts and entering into retirement. With a drastically reduced number of younger people able to take their place, China’s economic growth has suffered as a result. The People’s government has stated that the working age population fell once again in 2013. Late that year, the Chinese government released statements that it planned to relax the one-child policy and allow families to have up to two children. Unfortunately, much of the damage to China’s economic growth had already been done, and the nation is already facing its slowest fiscal growth in over 30 years. Some economists are projecting it may be some time before the country sees a recovery in that sector.

Sex determination is illegal in China for this very reason. Parents are not allowed to know what gender their unborn children are in hopes that the above-mentioned abortions, abandonments, and subsequent social concerns can be prevented. However, in many instances, the law is circumvented and women have been known to pay for blood samples to be sent to other countries to determine the genders of their children. Even with the relaxation on the one-child policy, fewer people than expected even applied to have a second child, still preferring to have one male child.

Professor Xin believes the government could do much more to promote gender equality and could even provide more benefits to those who are willing to give birth to girl children to help China recover from the gender imbalance.