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Friday, July 16, 2010

By 2020, 24 million Chinese men will be 'bare branches', unable to find wives

Gendercide is in the news again. The current issue of Time (19th July 2010) has a piece by Hannah Beech reflecting on the scale and the unanticipated consequences of the Chinese government’s one-child policy.

In Chinese culture a principal source of a man’s self-esteem is his ability to marry and found a family, and bear children, thereby becoming a fruitful ‘branch’ of the family ‘tree’. But in ten years time, the mutual reinforcement of the Chinese government’s compulsory one-child policy and the cultural discrimination against baby-girls will leave 24 million Chinese men as ‘bare branches’, that is, unable to find women with whom to found a family.

Ms Beech observes that China’s fertility rate at 1.6 births per woman is ‘well below the normal replacement rate of 2.1’. But ‘the country is also saddled with one of the planet’s worst gender imbalances, largely as a result of women aborting female fetuses due to a traditional preference for male offspring.’ And why are Chinese women destroying their girl babies – ‘the pressure to bear a son is all the greater in China precisely because many families are limited to just one child.’

This is having a huge unintended side-effect – ‘by 2020 there will be at least 24 million ‘bare branches’ – men destined to stay single because there are not enough wives to go around.’ And this in turn is likely to lead to escalating criminal trafficking in women.

A second unforeseen outcome of the Chinese compulsory one-child policy is a radical unbalancing of the age-structure that puts China’s economic development at risk. Beech notes that ‘factories are now facing shortages of young skilled labour.’

A third never forecast social crisis coming down the tracks for China from this ill-judged and unjust social policy concerns the elderly. As there are fewer people being born and not enough women to go around for the forming of families, there are going to be more elderly people to maintain and less workers to maintain them. ‘By 2050, one-third of Chinese will be elderly.’ And the pension support for the elderly is very poor in urban areas and immeasurably worse in rural areas.

The situation is actually far worse than Beech acknowledges but it is encouraging to find that a significant awareness of the nature of the crisis and its scale is percolating into the mainstream international magazines.

Read Time Magazine article here

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