HEFEI-- China's gender imbalance is so serious that millions of men will not
be able to find wives a decade from now.
If current birth ratios were to continue, between 2015 and 2030 there will be
25 million men in China with no hope of finding a mate, according to a study
issued by France's National Institute of Demographic Studies in October last
However, the program "Care for Girls" offers hope that the imbalance can be
righted. The program launched by the State Population and Family Planning
Commission (SCPFP) in 2003 in 24 pilot counties provides social benefits,
including cash payments, to families with only girls, in order to boost the
status of girls and women.
The program is credited with reducing the boys-to-girls ratio in those
counties from 133.8/100 to 119.6/100 over the past three years.
The SCPFP will now extend the program to all provincial regions.
In Wuwei County, in east China's Anhui Province, a 38-year-old peasant woman
named Ding Xiufang burst into tears when her 12-year-old daughter called her
"mom" for the first time.
In 1994, Ding and her husband asked Ding's mother to bring up their daughter
because the couple were eager to have a boy and were too poor to look after two
children at the same time.
When Wuwei County was selected for the first trial of the "Care for Girls"
program in 2003, the county family planning committee provided Ding with funds
to grow food and vegetables at home while her husband received a four-wheel
vehicle to transport goods.
Two years after the program was launched, the couple had fought their way out
of abject poverty and have now built a two-storey house beyond their wildest
dreams. They brought their daughter home and fitted out a study for her,
allowing the girl to finally experience parental love.
There are echoes of Ding's story throughout Wuwei County. A family with one
or two girls will receive 30,000 yuan (3,750 U.S. dollars) worth of subsidies
before the girls are married, including aid funds, education assistance and
In rural China couples are allowed to have a second child if the first one is
Even if the notion of "ladies first" is increasingly accepted in Chinese
cities, the saying "raising a daughter is like watering someone else's fields"
is deep-rooted among people in rural China. Traditionally, elderly peasants
could only depend on their sons.
Wang Jianhui, a farmer with two daughters in Fengming town, Qishan County, in
northwest China's Shaanxi Province, no longer worries about his old age. The
local government has provided Wang and his wife with an endowment insurance
which will pay them 1,200 yuan (150 U.S. dollars) every year after they turn 60.
"I never imagined daughters could bring me such benefits," Wang said.
Some parents used to abort the wife's pregnancy if tests showed the fetus was
female so that they could try again for a boy. As a result, there are 119 boys
born for every 100 girls in China, an imbalance much higher than the global
ratio of 103-107 boys for 100 girls.
Only seven out of 31 provincial regions report a gender ratio below 110 boys
to 100 girls and boys under the age of nine outnumber girls in the same age
group by 12.77 million.
To curb the male-dominated gender imbalance, the Chinese government initiated
the "Care for Girls" program and has beefed up efforts to fight sex selection
China has prosecuted 3,000 cases of fetus gender identification and selective
abortion for non-medical purposes over the past two years.