Caixin
Nov 24, 2021 06:50 PM
CHINA

Gender Imbalance Deepens in Rural China

The previous one-child policy effective from 1979 to 2015 is recognized as the reason for the wider gender imbalance in rural areas, where families tend to prefer boys. Photo: VCG
The previous one-child policy effective from 1979 to 2015 is recognized as the reason for the wider gender imbalance in rural areas, where families tend to prefer boys. Photo: VCG

China’s gender imbalance widened in rural areas last year as males continued outnumbering females in all these areas across the country, according to official data published by the National Bureau of Statistics.

For rural areas, the 1.4 billion-strong nation reported a sex ratio last year of 107.91, around 108 males for every 100 females, according to the China Statistical Yearbook 2021. The figure was about 103 in urban areas.

Nearly 510 million people lived in China’s rural areas in 2020, with the number of males there exceeding that of females by 19.4 million, according to the yearbook.

The sex ratio in rural areas is higher than that of the national average of 105.07, a figure previously revealed during the seventh national census released in May.

Notably, the sex ratio was over 110 in 14 out of the Chinese mainland’s 31 provincial-level regions, with the highest of 130.93 reported in rural parts of financial hub Shanghai, the yearbook shows.

Beijing’s rural area placed second-highest with a sex ratio of 120.21, followed by the southern province of Hainan and the northern region of Inner Mongolia.

The latest figures came as figures show China’s birth rate had dropped to its lowest point in more than four decades. Women of childbearing age posted a lower-than-expected fertility rate of 1.3, forcing authorities to launch a three-child policy as well as various supportive measures to boost births.

The previous one-child policy effective from 1979 to 2015 is recognized as the reason for the wider gender imbalance in rural areas, where families tend to prefer boys.

Liang Jianzhang, co-founder of online travel giant Ctrip, and Huang Wenzheng, visiting researcher at the Center for China and Globalization, said in a Caixin opinion piece that the long-term low fertility rate will aggravate the issue of gender imbalance.

Their views were supported by economics professors from Jinan University, Feng Shuaizhang and Han Yujie, who said that the gender imbalance could result in more single people and lower the marriage rate.

The yearbook also shows 11 provincial-level regions’ urban areas had a sex ratio less than or equal to 100. These regions were mostly in the north. The lowest ratio was found in the northeastern province of Jilin, home to just over 24 million residents.

Wei Shangjin, former chief economist of the Asian Development Bank, said in a commentary published by Shanghai’s Fudan University that China’s gender imbalance can be improved by policy intervention and suggested authorities offer subsidies for newborn girls to accelerate a change to the attitude that boys have more value than girls.

Contact reporter Wang Xintong (xintongwang@caixin.com) and editor Bertrand Teo (bertrandteo@caixin.com)

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