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30 million Chinese men to be wifeless over the next 30 years

By Liu Jing | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-02-13 16:39

30 million Chinese men to be wifeless over the next 30 years

[Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, there's more bad news for men who haven't got a date for tomorrow.

It's estimated that in the next three decades up to 30 million men of marriage age will have trouble finding wives.

Experts blame the crisis mainly on China's gender imbalance dating back to the 1980s, reports the People's Daily.

"China's growing high male-female sex ratio at birth has lasted for almost 30 years and the accumulative effects of this will lead to a 30 million surplus of men at marriageable age over the next 30 years," Zhai Zhenwu, professor of population studies at Renmin University of China, said.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that by the end of 2015, there were 704 million male citizens and 670 million female citizens on the Chinese mainland. On average, 114 boys were born for every 100 girls, compared to the world average of 103 to 107. Among the population born in the 1980s, there were 136 bachelors to every 100 single women and among those born in 1970s, the number of single men increases to 206.

Zhai explains that the skewed ratio is caused by Chinese people's preference for boys over girls and the development of technology that enables parents to find out the gender of their baby before birth and have an abortion if they are not satisfied.

Even in the 21st century, China's average sex ratio at birth once reached as high as 121 boys to 100 girls and in some provinces, the it even climbed to an astonishing 130 boys for every 100 girls.  

The most serious problem created by the imbalance is the so-called Guanggun (literally bare branches, or left-over men).

Unless the bachelors all choose to marry women older than themselves, there will be 30 million men unable to find a partner," Zhai predicts. The estimate is based on the standard sex ratio at birth. If the ratio in China falls slower than expected, the number of single men will be even higher.

According to Wang Guangzhou from the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, today about 4 percent of men aged between 35 to 59 are unmarried, while only 0.4 percent of women in the same age range are single.

Wang says men with less education, lower social and economic status often bear the brunt. In 1990, only 12.7 percent of the "bare branches" between 35 to 59 had less than six years of education. The number rose to 15 percent 10 years later.

Lu Yilong, professor of sociology and population studies at Renmin University of China, said that the gender gap may encourage unaffordable dowries, women trafficking, sexual crimes and other social issues.

In the long run, the deficit in female population and low fertility rate will further shrink the working population and fasten the aging of the overall population, Wang Guangzhou cautions.

Other sociologists believe that female job seekers may face more sexual discrimination in their career path as a result of the unbalanced sex ratio.

In November, 2002, fetus sex identification for non-medical reasons and sex-selective abortions were officially forbidden in China. However, it is difficult to regulate the practices due to deficiencies in the regulation and development of technology.

Wang predicts that more girls will be born after 2015, when all couples in China were allowed to have a second child.

However, Zhai says the possibility of further policy changes should not be ruled out. According to the goal set in the National Plan on Population Development (2016-2030), by 2020, the boy-girl ratio at birth should be equal or lower than 112 to 100 and the ratio by 2030 should be stabilized at 107 to 100. This means it will need 13 years to bring the ratio to normal and then the country has to deal with the left-over men born in the past three decades and in the following 13 years.

Wang suggests that China should put more effort into making and implementing laws to regulate sexual determination and protect the rights of female citizens on a national scale. He also proposes a data-sharing platform which will raise awareness about the unbalanced sex ratio at birth.

Experts agree that the key is to change people's traditional preference for boys and work towards gender equality.

The sense of gender equality is still weak currently. Traditional bias against girls can only be changed with urbanization, industrialization and education, Zhai says.

"We need to educate the next generation and create the soil for gender equality," Zhai adds. "The bare branches crisis will not be resolved until the young people's view on child-bearing is changed."

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