updated 13 Mar 2012, 17:01
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Tue, Mar 13, 2012
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24 million men face lonely future: Study

BEIJING: More than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age could find themselves without spouses in 2020, state media reported yesterday, citing a study that blamed sex-specific abortions as a major factor.

The study, by the government-backed think-tank Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, singled out the gender imbalance among newborns as the most serious demographic problem for the country's population of 1.3 billion, the Global Times said.

'Sex-specific abortions remained extremely commonplace, especially in rural areas', where the cultural preference for boys over girls is strongest, the study said.

It noted that the reasons for the gender imbalance were complex.

Researcher Wang Guangzhou declined to conclude that the surplus of 24 million men would mean more bachelors, but he said the skewed birth ratio could lead to difficulties for men with lower incomes in finding spouses.

Another researcher, Mr Wang Yue-sheng, said that men in poorer parts of China would be forced to accept marriages late in life or remain single for life, which could 'cause a break in family lines'.

'The chances of getting married will be rare if a man is more than 40 years old in the countryside. They will be more dependent on social security as they age and have fewer household resources to rely on,' Mr Wang added.

The normal male-female ratio should be between 103 and 107 males for every 100 females, according to the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

But in 2005 - the last year for which data was made available - there were 119 boys for every 100 girls, the Global Times said.

The study noted that in some areas, the male-female ratio was as high as 130 males for every 100 females, a report by the Mirror evening newspaper said.

The study said the key contributing factors to the phenomenon included the nation's family planning policy, which restricts the number of children citizens may have, as well as an inadequate social security system.

The situation influenced more people to seek male offspring, who are preferred for their greater earning potential as adults and thus their ability to care for their elderly parents.

Researchers said the gender imbalance problem cropped up in the late 1980s when the use of ultrasound technology became more prevalent.

The technology has allowed women to easily determine the sex of their foetuses, leading to an increased number of sex-selective abortions.

The study urged the government to relax the so-called 'one-child' policy and consider the possibility of encouraging 'cross-country marriages'.

China first implemented its population control policy in 1979, generally limiting families to one child, with some exceptions for rural farmers, ethnic minorities and other groups.

It has said the policy has averted 400 million births.

Contrary to some beliefs, the sex imbalance is not good news for females either, as the age gap will undoubtedly widen between spouses.

The Global Times reported that abductions and trafficking of women were rampant in areas with excess numbers of men, citing the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

Illegal marriages and forced prostitution were also problems in those areas, it said.

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