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Gender disparity harms China’s economy


China’s recently released census results confirm the country’s male surplus is alarming by global standards. The imbalance in the number of boys versus girls has had an impact on the economy and not just China.

Since women generally live longer than men, the population of most countries is more female than male. In the United States, for example, there are 96 males per 100 females in 2020. But in China, there are 105 males per 100 females, the country’s latest census shows. In China, women live an average of three years longer than men, so the “surplus male population” is entirely the result of an unusually high ratio of boys to girls at birth.

Normally, the sex ratio at birth is about 106 boys for every 100 girls. Since boys and young men have slightly higher mortality rates and since husbands tend to be older than wives, such birth rates are nature’s way of ensuring a 1:1 ratio at a time when people to reproductive age.

Although China’s male-to-female ratio at birth is close to its natural level in the 1970s, a combination of factors has resulted in a steady increase in the male-to-female ratio over time. The most important thing is that the Chinese generally prefer boys and the availability of ultrasound technology allows parents to know the sex of the fetus.

Some parents have opted for sex-selective abortion. The Chinese government has tried to ban this practice, but it has been difficult to implement because abortion has long been used as a means of complying with birth restrictions. As a result, the sex ratio at birth has steadily increased, reaching 121 boys to 100 girls in 2009.

According to the recent census, this male-to-female disparity has decreased to 111.3 boys to 100 girls, more even than before but still significantly higher in the absence of elective abortion. sex.

China’s male excess has resulted in a large number of young men being unable to marry. In mathematical terms, one in nine men in China cannot find a girlfriend or wife. The problem is exacerbated in areas such as rural Anhui and Guangdong, where 1 in 6 men have difficulty finding a mate.

Shang-jin Wei, former chief economist at the Asian Development Bank and professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia Business School and Columbia University’s School of Public and International Affairs wrote on the Project Syndicate page. as follows:

“In a series of research papers with various co-authors, I have documented some of the large and sometimes surprising economic consequences of this gender disparity for China and the world. For starters, young adults – and especially parents with unmarried sons, often increase their savings rates to enhance their ability in the dating and marriage market.

An increase in the savings rate tends to boost a country’s trade surplus. In 2013, Qingyuan Du and I showed that an increase in the male-female gap could contribute to about one-third to one-half the increase in China’s trade surplus with other countries. The gender imbalance could therefore be the cause of tensions between China and the US. However, bilateral exchanges pay little attention to this relevance.

China’s gender disparity also contributes to unsafe practices in the workplace, causing preventable accidents and casualties, said Shang-jin Wei.

The lack of brides also forces many parents of sons of marriageable age to work longer hours, seeking higher-paying jobs in industries such as mining or construction, or jobs that require them to do so. exposure to hazardous materials, too high or too low temperatures. As more and more people are willing to accept such jobs, employers often invest less in occupational safety, thereby increasing work-related accidents.

According to Shang-jin Wei, accidental injuries and deaths in the workplace are often significantly higher in areas where the percentage of women is much less than that of men.

The gender imbalance can correct itself, but very slowly, the analyst said. Seeing parents with sons bear a greater financial and material burden to help their children get married, many young couples may decide to have a better daughter. However, the latest census shows that sex disparities at birth persist, suggesting that discrimination against girls persists.

Due to concerns about slow population growth, China has gradually relaxed its family planning policy. Policymakers should go further and provide financial incentives for parents of girls. Such a measure would accelerate the correction of the sex ratio imbalance at birth and prevent a decline in the overall fertility rate.

A more balanced sex ratio would reduce the need for many households to sacrifice current levels of consumption to save more and promote a safer working environment. The measure will also help reduce China’s trade tensions with other countries.

Phan Le

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