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26 October 2004

Shortage of Girls in China

China Offers Parents Cash for Girls
Mail & Guardian (liberal), Johannesburg

China is offering to pay couples a premium for producing baby girls to counter an alarming gender imbalance created by the country's one-child population control policy. Last year, 117 boys were born for every 100 girls in China, compared with a global average of 105 to 100. Faced by a socially destabilising shortage of more than 30-million women by 2020, senior family planning officials said on Thursday that they will offer welfare incentives to couples with two daughters and tighten the prohibition on sex-selective abortions. "China has set the goal of lowering the sex ratio to a normal level by 2010," said Zhao Baige, vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. To reverse the trend, pilot programmes are already under way in China's poorest provinces. In some areas, couples with two daughters and no sons have been promised an annual payment of R430 (about $80 US) once they reach 60 years of age. The money, which is a significant sum in areas where the average income is about R5 (less than $1.00 US) a day, will also be given to families with only one child to discourage couples with a daughter from trying again for a boy. Some regions have gone further. In parts of Fujian province, local governments have given housing grants of approximately R11000 ($1700 US) to couples with two girls. The state will expand welfare programmes so poor couples rely less on producing a son to care for them in their old age. It will also push a "caring for girls" propaganda campaign to counter the preference for boys.

But it is far from certain that the measures will be any more successful than previous attempts to reverse the preference for boys. Many families, particularly in rural areas, place greater value on sons, who are considered best suited to continue the family line, generate income and ensure that parents are cared for during their old age. A disproportionate number of female fetuses are aborted and girls are at greater risk than boys of being abandoned or sold.


To all the lonely girls, here's your chance...

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