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27 Jun, 2012

China’s Gender Ratio Imbalance Set to be Big Problem for “Leftover Men”

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

Beijing, June 26, 2012 – China’s sex ratio at birth has been rising in the past 30 years. The sex ratio at birth is also known as newborn infant sex ratio. Under natural circumstances, the ratio of every 100 newborn girls to 103 to 107 newborn boys is normal. As the death rate of boys is higher than that of girls, the numbers of men and women are equal when they are at the age of marriage and childbearing. Therefore, the United Nations set the figures between 103 and 107 as the normal value.

Since the high sex ratio at birth was found in the third national census in 1982, China has experienced nearly 30 years of continually rising sex ratio at birth, reaching the highest value of about 121 in 2008, and became one of the countries owning the most imbalanced sex ratio in the world.

Yuan Xin, professor of economics at the Nankai University, said that the social problem caused by the high sex ratio at birth has gradually become observable and the most direct impact is the phenomenon of “marriage squeeze.”

If calculating according to the population statistical data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the men less than 30 years old is about 20 million more than the women less than 30 years old in China. In the next 10 years, the men newly joining in the matrimonial age will be 1 million more than the women of the same age every year. The young men and women born in the 1980s and 1990s are facing the increasingly serious challenge of marriage squeeze.

“Bachelors” crisis

The leftover men will concentrate in the class of low-income people in the future and it will aggravate the trafficking in women, the mercenary marriage and the sexual crimes in backward regions.

The Institute of Population and Development Studies under the Xi’an Jiaotong University had made a “Technical Report on Gender Imbalance and Social Stability” by choosing 369 representative villages from 28 provinces of eastern, central and western China to make a survey on the unmarried men of 28 years old and above.

The report shows that there are nine male bachelors average in every village in the 28 provinces and their average age is about 41 years old. The degree of concentration gradually increases from the east to the west, with about 2.3 percent in the east and 3.2 percent in the west.

Compared to the eastern and central areas, the western area is at a disadvantage whether on the geographical location or at the economic level and the men in this region also have relatively less property. Therefore, the men under the marriage squeeze mostly concentrate in the western area.

“The suffering of marriage squeeze not only produces a large number of bachelors but also makes the poor the main victim,” Yuan Xin said. The reality objectively stimulated and exacerbated the phenomenon of trafficking in women, mercenary marriage and sexual crimes.

From this perspective, the “bachelors” crisis in rural areas is far severe than the problem of leftover women in urban areas, because it not only is related to personal development and family happiness but also affects social harmony and stability.

A threat to ecological security of the population.

The gender imbalance will affect the development of Chinese population. As the direct fertile population, the reduction of the women will inevitably lead to a decline of birth rate and further reduce the total population and working-age population and speed up the process of the aging of population.

The intertwining of long-term gender imbalance and aging of population will exacerbate the irrationality of population structure and is not conducive to the development of social economy. In the long run, it will be a problem about how to look after themselves and their parents in the future if these leftover men have not a spouse and child.

The gender imbalance will also bring the problem of employment squeeze. Yuan Xin said that the problem of surplus male laborers and the employment squeeze will be increasingly serious 10 to 20 years later. The surplus male laborers will enhance the competition in job market and make the females more difficult to find a job. In some industries, women will be short of and will be replaced by men. It will trigger fierce competition between the males due to surplus laborers.

The marriage squeeze will bring a huge impact on the stability of the traditional family and trigger the moral crisis of marriage and family.

The continual accumulation of the number of unmarried men at the legal age for marriage will greatly increase the risk of social instability and insecurity. The report said that the older unmarried men in the villages surveyed had involved in the activities of destructing social security in the past three years, with the incidence from high to low being gambling, mobbing, stealing and gang fighting.

The gender imbalance will further strengthen the discrimination against women. In the remote rural areas, the social and family status of women who did not bear a boy will be threatened and those women who bore a boy through factitious sex selection or illegal childbirth are not free from the traditional shackle of valuing the male child only.

Yuan Xin said that the long-term imbalance in China’s sex ratio at birth will threaten the ecological safety of the population. The structure of social class, the consumption structure and organization structure will be male-dominated in the future, which will influence the economic and social sustainable development. Its far-reaching harm will be as much as the population expansion in the middle of the 20th century.

Read the Chinese version: 剩男是个大问题