Gender Imbalance Troubles Shandong Province

| Jan 30, 2015 01:01 PM EST

Experts insist that China's previous "one-child" policy can be blamed for the current alarming low birth rate and gender imbalance.

Authorities in Shandong Province are troubled by gender imbalance which could worsen the already relaxed policies on family planning. This is because parents, especially in rural areas, resort to unofficial methods of "gender selection."

Governor Guo Shuqing said in his speech on Tuesday that the gender ratio in the province stands at an alarming rate of 120:100.

Shandong political advisor Ding Xinfu said that the local goverment's proactive approach to the problem of gender imbalance was clearly reflected in Guo's speech.

From late last year, Shandong Health and Family Planning Commission records state that Shandong's gender ratio at birth in 2013 was 116.6 boys to 100 girls.

This figure is apparently slightly higher than China's national average which, according to the records of The National Bureau of Statistics, stands at 115.88 boys to every 100 girls in 2014.

The global average ratio of boys to girls currently stands at 107:100.

Lian Fang, a gynecologist in Shandong, said: "I have treated some women who suffered from infertility after getting an abortion. Because of the one-child policy, some parents have done their own gender selection."

Lian was referring to the rural practice of buying ultrasound machines in the black market or testing pregnant women's blood samples. These procedures are conducted to determine the genders of unborn children. Males are preferred in Shandong province and girl fetuses are usually aborted.

These procedures are primarily illegal because fetal sex determination is banned in China.

Lian further said that these fetal sex determination methods harm both the pregnant women and the population of the whole community in general.

The worsening gender imbalance was described by the National Health and Family Planning Commission as "the most serious and prolonged" in the world.

Despite the fact that China is the most populous country in the world, the country is undergoing a low birth rate. A study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences states that China's birth rate is 1.4 children per woman. This figure, the study further said, is referred to as "low fertility trap" as it is close to the alarming global rate of 1.3.

As counter-measure, the government changed the "one-child policy" last March, allowing parents to have an additional child if either parent is an only child.

Demographer and former Harvard University research fellow Huang Wenzheng said that the root cause of the problem is China's family planning policy. The one-child policy apparently contributed a lot to the low birth rate phenomena, especially in rural areas.

"The root cause of gender imbalance is the restrictive family planning policy, which forced Chinese parents who prefer boys to abort baby girls," said Huang.

"Many people are asking the government to lift the family planning policy. The current spotlight on Shandong could make it a pilot region," Huang added.

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