Millions of lonely would-be grooms in China

In just 15 years, the country will have 30 million more men than women of marriageable age.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published January 12, 2007 6:58PM (EST)

China's one-child policy is about to come home to roost, in the form of a lot of lonely bachelors.

A front-page story in the state-run China Daily News predicts social unrest within 15 years, when there will be 30 million more men in the country of marriageable age than women, according to the Associated Press. Since the late '70s, China's one-child policy has led many couples to abort female fetuses, if an early ultrasound shows they're expecting a girl.

Sex-selective abortion is illegal in the country, but the practice is widespread, especially in rural areas. And it appears to be getting even more popular: "China's sex ratio for newborn babies in 2005 was 118 boys to 100 girls, a huge jump from 110 to 100 in 2000," writes the AP. In some rural areas, there are 130 boys born for every 100 girls. Part of the cultural preference for boys comes from parental concern that they'll be dependent on their child to support them in their old age. The state-run media suggested that instituting a social security system could help curb the practice.

Will the status of women in China improve with the serious shortages of them? Not necessarily, if you consider the case of South Korea. As we noted last September, the Los Angeles Times had a great piece about the social impact of such sex selection there. In South Korea, where 113 boys are now born for every 100 girls, the Times reported, men in rural areas import brides from Vietnam, the Philippines and even China, despite the language barriers. The eager-to-marry men pay marriage brokers as much as $20,000 to take bachelor tours abroad where they meet potential wives, while the young women's parents sell their daughters' hand in marriage for about $300. With not enough available women at home, these men travel abroad to buy them.


Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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