July 14, 2005

China Stares At Looming Girl Shortage

Just found this article from the NYT, dated January 31, 2005, about the baby steps China's government is taking to alleviate a demographic crisis caused, inadvertently, by the longstanding one-child policy: a severe shortage of girls. In Fujian province for example, thanks to gender screening and selective abortion, there are 134 boys born for every 100 girls, way above the global ratio of 105:100.

Promotional campaigns, educational and other perks for girls, and even pension bonuses for girl-only families haven't shifted the longstanding cultural preference for boys:

Officials used the recent birth of the country's 1.3 billionth citizen as a propaganda vehicle to laud government efforts to slow population growth. The eight-pound baby, born in January, was a boy. His first bath was nationally televised.

Asked about the honor, Zhang Tong, the father, could have been describing the different parental attitudes toward sons and daughters. "I am the happiest guy in the world," Zhang told the state news media, "and my boy will be blessed all his life."

China Starts to Give Girls Their Due [nyt, via scholastic upfront]


Wow--absolutely depressing.

In a culture where a girl is a burden (has to be expensively married off, goes to her in-laws and joins their family) and a boy is a blessing (supports his family until death), you're not going to change people's attitudes with promotional campaigns. You'd have to have a cultural shift in perception that affects the entire society, one that bucks thousands of years of tradition. I think in the US, cultural shifts like these (e.g. recent ones such as the sexual revolution, feminist movement, civil rights) are easier to accomplish partly because our society is still pretty much in its infancy.

To all, My heart goes out to the many Chinese Women faced with having to give up a child because it is not the right gender..but at the same time, due to this, I will be a mom for the first time and our little girl will be coming home to us this fall. Old traditions are hard to change, the comfort in it all is somewhere those little girls bring happiness that is indescribable!!!!!

I would argue that modern Chinese society is in IT'S infancy, whereas our society is in the zit-popping stage.

Societal traditions are at odds with one of the more importants reasons to want and to keep a son in China, its more about economics. You really hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the fact that its up to the boy to take care of his parents as they age.

With more and more young chinese of both genders marrying independent of societal constraints and independent of familial obligations, with more and more young women holding down jobs and with the wave of capitalistic commercialism sweeping China presently, I think you will see our, more western models readily adopted.

There are so many great books out right now about emerging China. This is such a complex issue and nobody is right or wrong. The need for more girls has become a real issue recently as most of the boys from the original 'one-child' policy are now grown and looking for spouses.....the needs of the young will fundamentally change China from within.

And let's not forget the possibility that Hepatitis B could be part of the problem, which would be easily solved with vaccines: http://slate.msn.com/id/2119402/
okay, yeah, it's the Freakonomics guys, but this time they're just covering someone else's research.

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