Boy-girl ratio improves, but is still among world's worst
Mainland authorities have hailed the success of efforts to curb the gender imbalance among newborns, with the ratio of boys to girls dropping for the past three years in a row. However, the latest ratio is still one of world's highest.
It is the first time the ratio has declined in three successive years since the late 1970s, when the compulsory one-child policy was implemented, the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily reported yesterday.
There were 117.78 boys born for every 100 girls last year, down from 117.94 in 2010 and 119.45 in 2009.
'These continual sex ratio declines demonstrate the achievements of our comprehensive efforts over the past few years, like the crackdown against the abuse of ultrasonic screening to determine an infant's sex and sex-selective abortion, as well as the campaigns to care for girls,' the newspaper quoted Zhang Jian, spokesman for the National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying.
He added that the ratio was still high and the authorities would need to keep working on the problem.
Experts have warned that there will be 24 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020.
They say the natural newborn sex ratio should be 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls.
The mainland's skewed sex ratio at birth is in part the result of its one-child policy and people's traditional preference for boys over girls - a prejudice especially widely held in rural areas.
The ratio began to peak in the mid-1980s thanks to the wide application of ultrasonic screening technology across the country, state media reported. By 2008, it had reached 120.56.
In 2005 the central government banned ultrasonic screening to determine an infant's sex and sex-selective abortion.
He Yafu, a demographer based in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, questioned the reliability of official statistics. But he said that even if the sex ratio figures announced by the authorities were true, they would still be among world's highest.
He said the situation tends to be normal in cities, with people showing no preference towards boys or girls, but in rural areas the sex ratio at birth could be 150, driven by couples desperate to have baby boys.