China's Great Gender Crisis

For the Guardian, Tania Branigan reports that as traditional preferences for male children are eroding, the alarming gender gap in the population may slowly shift back to normal levels. She visits the city of Shengzhou. where in the late 1980s, 129 males were born per 100 females. By the turn of the century, the ratio had returned to normal:

You do not have to look far for part of the explanation. Shengzhou is, it boasts, International Necktie City of the 21st Century, making 350m ties a year – or 40% of the world’s supply – as well as huge quantities of gas stoves and cone diaphragms for speakers.

Its factories offer plenty of jobs for daughters, allowing them to make a hefty economic contribution to the household. Across the country, manufacturers have frequently preferred female employees, regarding them as more careful and less troublesome.

Many rural families have less land than they used to; and machinery is available to work the soil, making brute strength less important. China is beginning to develop a welfare system. And development has brought other changes – couples who move into cities have more exposure to new ideas, and less pressure from extended families, say experts.

Old habits and beliefs are eroding. In villages as well as towns, conjugal ties between husband and wife have become more important, while the filial links between parent and child have become less so. Young couples are more likely to live apart from relatives. Few parents can now count on a dutiful daughter-in-law caring for them; and many are noticing that daughters are doing a better job.

Read more about China’s gender gap via CDT. A recent book by Mara Hvistendahl, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men Asia’s Disappearing Daughters, looks at the problem throughout Asia.


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