Gender preference affecting China’s population

Carry out family planning, implement the basic national policy

A propaganda poster used in the ‘one child’-campaign (credit:

In recent years China has been facing gender disparity in its 1.6 billion (or more) population. According to official statistics, there were 108 males for every 100 females in the 1980s and this number increased to 120 males in 2000.

The cause for this  might have been not only the one-child-policy (enforced by the Chinese government since 1979), but also infanticide and child abandonment which have been supported by a culture of men superiority over women.

Professor Li Shuzhuo, from the Institute for Population and Development Studies at Xi’an Jiaotong University, states that “[In the short term] cracking down on illegal fetal sex testing and sex-selective abortions is very important and effective” although other experts are against it, arguing that if parent really wish to have a boy this practice can lead to unsafe abortion or infanticide.

Preference for a boy may have been accepted for practical reasons. For example, men were believed to be more useful than women for families who are dependent on agriculture, but things have changed since the employment of machinery have been introduced (requiring less physical strength to do the job). Also, factories have shown preference for female workers  since they appear to be more careful and less troublesome than men

On the other hand, having a son in the country have become less beneficial from a financial point of view, since the surplus of want-to-be grooms made the burning competition for the few available brides even tougher. In practice, it means that the groom’s family is responsible for accommodating the newly married couple, including housing and wedding ceremony.

Are Chinese parents going to love their children unconditionally without any implied gender preference? Or are cultural traditions and gender preferences going to keep prevailing? Government is trying to revert this situation but only time will tell whether the current approach is effective or not.


The Guardian: China’s great gender crisis
Banister, Judith. China’s changing population. Stanford University Press, 1987