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Preference for boys forecast to leave 24m Chinese without a wife

Twenty-four million men in China will face huge problems finding themselves a wife, by the end of the decade because of the country’s ‘one couple, one child’ family planning policy, a report says. China’s one-child-per-couple policy has led to a disproportionate number of female babies being aborted.

Brought in to control population growth in 1979, as the country feared it would not be able to feed all its people, the law, started to create an imbalance in the late 1980s with the introduction of ultrasound scans. About 400 million births have been prevented, the study says. Ultrasound scans pushed many women especially in the countryside, to abort the girls they were carrying because they wanted sons instead. Boys tend to bring in more money than girls and families prefer sons so that the family line can continue.  The country’s leading think-tank the government-controlled Chinese Academy of Social Sciences calls the gender imbalance among newborns ‘the most serious demographic problem facing China.’ The surplus of men, known as “bare branches” in the rural areas that could lead to a surge in crime and social instability, officials fear.

Researchers said the skewed birth ratio could mean poorer men have an especially hard time finding a wife and men in poorer parts of China would be forced to marry later or stay single for life, 'causing a break in family lines'. Wang Yuesheng, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: “The chance 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.” A Chinese minister has said the one-child policy will stay in place for at least another 10 years, according to news channel, CNN, when nearly 200 million Chinese will enter child-bearing age. The country's population currently stands at about1.3 billion people and is expected to peak at around 1.6 billion within the next 40 years.

Abortion in China is legal and widely available. The country bans tests to find out the sex of a baby for non-medical reasons, but they are still carried out, mainly by underground clinics in the countryside. The law does not discourage or even define late-term termination of pregnancies. Some families do not register the birth of daughters so that they can try legally for a son, according to a report in The Times newspaper. 

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children