Daughters-only families enjoy extra help
In a plus for gender equality, families that have only daughters, but no more than two, will get help for their education and medical care in the suburbs of the capital of South China's Guangdong Province.
Zhou Zheng, a senior official with the local population and family planning bureau, told China Daily that girls who have no male siblings will enjoy favourable treatment for their studies and treatment costs should their families have financial problems.
The policy is seen as a measure to address the discrimination many Chinese parents practise against daughters.
The latest census indicates that this discrimination would certainly lead to an unbalanced gender mix in the population.
The "care for girls" project, launched in September last year in the city along with the rest of the nation, aims to provide a healthy environment for girls' development and protects the interests of women.
Statistics from the State Family Planning and Population Commission indicate that the current birth ratio between boys and girls stands at 116.9:100, a significant 14 per cent higher than the normal.
The commission estimates that males may outnumber females by up to 40 million by the year 2020 if the birth ratio maintains its current trend.
In addition, around half of the 50 million poverty-stricken people are rural women; and of the adult illiterate population of 85 million, 70 per cent are women.
In Guangdong Province, the male-female birth ratio is higher than that of the whole nation.
Experts said the unbalanced birth ratio could trigger a lot of problems, hindering China's social and economic development.
The central and local governments launched the "care for girls" project last year to reduce the bias towards females and create a better social environment for women from all walks of life. The central government has earmarked a special fund of 7 million yuan (US$846,400) for the project.
"People, especially in the rural areas, still hold the traditional view that only boys can continue the ancestral line of the family and that women are inferior to men - leading to an unbalanced birth ratio, " said Zhou, adding that the government should improve public welfare for women to eradicate traditional discrimination.
The local government has decided to extend the project to all the suburbs this year after launching the pilot project in the Huadu suburb last year.
"We hope people from all walks of life and governments at all levels will attach more importance to this project, or we will suffer a lot from the increasing unbalanced birth ratio," said Zhou.