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Incentives offered to families with girls
By Ma Zhijuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-12 02:07

Rural families are being offered cash incentives to stop aborting unborn children if they are believed to be girls.

In a "Care for Girls" pilot project that aims to redress imbalances in the gender ratio in rural China, the National Population and Family Planning Commission has garnered officials at all levels to "create a favourable environment" for females at all stages of their lives.

The commission made the call Wednesday at a national conference in Anxi County, East China's Fujian Province.

Organizers of the project say they are aiming to bring the average of 117 boys born to 100 girls down to the normal level of between 103 and 107.

Chiefs managing the first 11 projects have drawn on the expertise of about 250 people to give advice on how to encourage parents to have baby girls.

Current rules state that if farming families' firstborns are female, they may have another baby -- a boy or a girl.

Now Fujian Province is spearheading the move to stop the abortions.

It has provided 200 million yuan (US$24million) insurance to be given out to 490,000 households as their daughters grow up.

Nearly 100,000 girls are exempted from paying school fees each year.

Daughters-only families in other provinces also enjoy special privileges in housing, employment, education, job training and welfare support.

Another 13 counties represented at the conference have agreed to promote the project.

Offices have been set up in 24 provinces that have a sex ratio birth rate of at least 110 boys to 100 girls, and programmes addressing the issue are under way in a third of counties nationwide, according to Zhao Bingli, vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

Reversing the gender imbalance is only a short-term goal, said Zhang Weiqing, minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, who called for long-term gender equality and a better environment for females.

Zhang emphasized that the project should be in people's interests and based on human rights.

"More health care will be given to women during pregnancy and in the post-natal period to reduce the number of deaths in child birth.

"Attempts to address sex imbalance must take into account underlying factors, such as traditional preferences for sons, a poor productive force and a limited social welfare system," said Zhang.

He also rejected claims that China's one-child policy was to blame for the gender imbalance, quoting South Korea, where 116 boys are born to 100 girls but where there is no restriction on the number of children parents may have.

The sex ratio in cities tends to be normal, so there can not be a relationship between the two, said Zhang.

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