Published on October 12, 2007
Shortage of Girls in China Today:Causes, Consequences, International Comparisons, and Solutions : Shortage of Girls in China Today: Causes, Consequences, International Comparisons, and Solutions Judith Banister Beijing Javelin Investments China: “Missing girls” or shortage of femalesHighlights:: China: “Missing girls” or shortage of females Highlights: Real or spurious? China’s demographic data quality. Sex ratios—what would be normal? International data. History of China’s sex ratios—dynasties to year 2000. Shortage of girls in rural and urban China. China: Missing girls by parity. Geography of missing girls in China. What causes the dearth of girls in China? What other countries/areas have “missing girl” problem? Existing and possible policy responses, solutions. Real or spurious?China demographic data quality: Real or spurious? China demographic data quality Is it simply that existing girls and the births of girls are hidden and therefore underreported? No. Some data sources seriously underreport births and children of both sexes, for example, registration data and family planning system data. But China’s censuses and many surveys report the births and existence of boys and girls with approximately equal completeness. Counts are good, age reporting excellent. Even after adjustments for errors, sex ratios are highly distorted. The dearth of females is real. Sex Ratios—What is normal?How does China compare?: Sex Ratios—What is normal? How does China compare? Normal sex ratio at birth: 100-107 boys per 100 girls Normal total population sex ratio: 95-102 Normal sex ratio of death rates: 1.1-1.8, ratio of male to female death rates at each age Normal sex ratio ages 0-4: 100-107 China’s sex ratio at birth (since mid-1980s): 107-120 boys per 100 girls China’s total population sex ratio (1930-2000): 105-109 China’s sex ratio of death rates ages 0-3 (1981-2000): 0.7-1.0, ratio of male to female death rates China’s sex ratio ages 0-4, (1981-2000): 107-120 China abnormal sex ratios, time line:Improved until 1978: China abnormal sex ratios, time line: Improved until 1978 China’s population sex ratios: 1930 rural, 108.5; 1953, 107.6; 1964, 105.5. Before 1953 census, girls died at every age at a higher rate than boys, due to life-threatening discrimination. By 1964, excess girl mortality ceased by age 6 or 7. In the 1970s, death rates of girls and boys were about the same, which stabilized the sex ratio at 106 through childhood. Therefore, sex ratio imbalance in marriage ages improved from 1964 to 2000. China’s abnormal sex ratios:Situation deteriorated 1978 to the present.: China’s abnormal sex ratios: Situation deteriorated 1978 to the present. 1978-83: Announcement and implementation of one-child policy, increased coercion in family planning, resurgence of female infanticide. 1983-present: Sharp rise in sex-selective abortion, increasing excess female infant mortality reported. Reported sex ratio at birth and sex ratio of children at ages 0-4 rose to 120 boys per 100 girls in 2000. Two positive trends: Ratio of male to female mortality rates became more normal at ages 2 and above. Sex ratio ages 0-4 stabilized at 120 during 1997-2000. China Urban and Rural Sex Ratios: China Urban and Rural Sex Ratios Rural China has the most extreme missing girl situation, and urban towns are almost the same. The shortage of girls in China’s cities is less severe, but the dearth of girls in the cities is still very abnormal. What this signifies is that development, education, and urbanization alone will not solve the missing girl problem in China, though such progress may ameliorate the situation. China, Urban and Rural Child Sex Ratios, 2000 Census(Boys per 100 girls): China, Urban and Rural Child Sex Ratios, 2000 Census (Boys per 100 girls) Sex ratio at birth as reported, 1999-2000 National Cities Towns Rural areas 120 114 120 122 Sex ratios of children ages 0-4, 2000 Census National Cities Towns Rural areas 120 114 120 122 China, Missing Girls by Parity: China, Missing Girls by Parity Parents with one or more daughters but no sons are most likely to abort or cause the death of a daughter. Higher parity female fetuses and girls are most at risk. Through 1990, the sex ratio at birth for first parity births was normal. Even with the one-child policy and tight restrictions on numbers of births, couples allowed their first pregnancy to proceed normally. But by 2000, the sex ratio of first births had risen to 107.1 for China (109-117 in 12 provinces), partly because fertility is so low. Slide14: China 1982, Sex Ratio Ages 0-14 China 1990, Sex Ratio Ages 0-14: China 1990, Sex Ratio Ages 0-14 China 1995, Sex Ratio Ages 0-14: China 1995, Sex Ratio Ages 0-14 China 2000, Sex Ratio Ages 0-14: China 2000, Sex Ratio Ages 0-14 Since the early 1980s, has sex-selective abortion replaced female infanticide?: Since the early 1980s, has sex-selective abortion replaced female infanticide? Apparently not—as the dearth of girls has become more severe over time, sex-selective abortion has become the primary proximate determinant of missing girls. But successive censuses have shown greater excess female infant mortality over time. Proximate causes could be female infanticide, abandonment, neglect, or severe maltreatment of baby girls. China Excess Female Infant Mortality, 1981-2000(Infant deaths per 1,000 live births): China Excess Female Infant Mortality, 1981-2000 (Infant deaths per 1,000 live births) What causes the shortage of girls in China?: What causes the shortage of girls in China? Poverty? No, some of China’s poorest areas have no missing girl problem. But economic considerations matter. Political or economic system? No, compare international. Illiteracy, low educational level? No, but ideas can matter. Han Chinese culture? YES. Also a few minority nationality cultures. But not most, not Muslim cultures. Low fertility? YES. Combined with son preference. One-child policy? Maybe. Seems to worsen excess female infant mortality. Perhaps shortage of girls is more severe than without the one-child policy. In Asia, does economic and social development reduce anti-daughter discrimination?: In Asia, does economic and social development reduce anti-daughter discrimination? Unfortunately not. Not automatically. There is no clear relationship. As shown by Croll, in East and South Asia, the phenomenon of “missing girls” has worsened as economies have developed, as the status of women has improved, and as female educational attainment has risen. In India, as in China, daughter discrimination is found in urban areas as well as rural, and among educated as well as uneducated mothers. The “missing girl” situation is extreme in developed East Asian societies, such as South Korea and Taiwan. Where is there anti-girl discrimination and a resulting shortage of girls? : Where is there anti-girl discrimination and a resulting shortage of girls? East Asia: China, Taiwan, South Korea (not Japan) South Asia: India, Nepal, Pakistan Not in most Muslim countries of Arab Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, or Central Asia. Not in most of Latin America, Africa, Middle East, Less Developed, or Least Developed Countries. Not in Europe, North America, Russia. Only certain cultures have such strong traditional anti-daughter bias that is now exacerbated by declining and low fertility, leading to sex-selective abortion and/or excess mortality of daughters. Current PRC Policies to Combat Son Preference: Current PRC Policies to Combat Son Preference Laws giving girls and women equal rights with males. Propaganda and consciousness-raising slogans about the equal value and contributions of females and males. Laws outlawing infanticide, prenatal sex identification, and sex-selective abortion. Policies in most provinces allowing rural couples to have two children, or a second child if the first is a girl. Some localities have preferential policies for couples with daughters but no son, for example modest social security guarantees for the parents. Other possible initiatives: Other possible initiatives PRC officials and scholars could intensify consultations and information-sharing with other Asian countries that have strong son preference, then try in China whatever works elsewhere. Focused research in China on what now motivates couples to dispose of daughters, followed by creative strategies to address those concerns. Enhance the rights of daughters and the responsibilities of daughters toward their natal families throughout their lives. Land and inheritance rights for females—how to implement? Other Solutions:: Other Solutions: Deal with the ethical dilemma of supporting abortion rights in general while discouraging sex-selective abortion. Publicity, education, and propaganda on the human rights of girls and women. Work to change the culture and attitudes. Increase legal rights of girls and women and vigorously enforce those rights. Implement and expand social security systems for old age in rural and urban areas, so parents do not have to depend on sons.