China’s Sex Ratio: How Skewed Is It?

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Late last year, China ended its one-child policy, where each family was only allowed to have…one child. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.) Though its rules have relaxed in recent years, this is the first time the practice has been officially abolished. (But we’ll see how long it takes for the policy to actually die down, data-wise.)

We’ve all heard about how skewed China’s sex ratios are; we’ve heard about how the country overwhelmingly favors male children to the detriment of an equal sex ratio. But what are the numbers behind this phenomenon?

Consulting firm Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. released data in 2010 that revealed that Chinese women bear .71 of female births during their lifetime. That year, men outnumbered women by 50M+. The birth rate at that time was 120 boys per 100 girls, which works out to a sex ratio of 1.2.

If you’re a visual learner, here’s what that ratio looks like, especially in context with other countries:

China's male births compared to other countries' male births ('Business Insider')

China’s male births compared to other countries’ male births (‘Business Insider’)

As Business Insider notes:

That means lots of single, possibly angry males. Hard to imagine anything good coming out of this.

The policy was made into law in 1979, and abolished in 2015. That’s 36 years. Thirty-sex years of selected sex-selection in favor of boys at the expense of girls. (Fun fact: Kim Kardashian West participated in this when she was trying to get pregnant with her now-son.)

Scary, right? We’ll see how the new policy helps attempt to reverse this long-running trend.

 

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#ThrowbackThursday: Chinese One-Child Policy Propaganda Poster, 1986

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

As of Jan. 1, China’s one-child policy is officially history. Married couples are now allowed to have up to two children for the first time since 1979.

I’ve always thought propaganda posters were interesting, and here’s a great one for the one-child policy. It’s from 1986, and titled, “Carry out family planning, implement the basic national policy.” The image carries that can-do attitude made popular by Rosie the Riveter, and it’s easy to get swept up in the sentiment. Not to mention, the overall poster design’s pretty great too.

 

China Ends Its Famous One-Child Policy

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Whoa. Here’s something I didn’t expect to happen within my lifetime: Last week, China officially ended its one-child-per-family policy. Now, married couples are allowed to have up to two children. Crazy! (Though I kind of doubt that many couples will get crazy, and have more than two.)

The one-child policy was informally adopted (i.e. “strongly encouraged”) in 1975, made into law by the country’s Communist Party four years later. The law followed China’s population exceeding 800M+ people in 1970, with leaders realizing that the then-current growth rate was unsustainable.

However, the law has been relaxed for exceptions. In 1984, parents were allowed to have two children if one parent was an only. In 2013, this became alright if only one parent was an only child.

It’s estimated that the policy has prevented 400M+ births.

But why was the policy abolished, and why now? There are a few reasons. One is that the male-to-female sex ratio is becoming unbearably skewed, which tends to happen when preference for one sex greatly outweighs the other. (In this case, the Chinese preferred boys to girls, even going so far as to commit infanticide if a child was born a girl.) The birth rate is also declining, and the mortality rate is on track to outpace it. Per “The New York Times:”

China’s working-age population, those 15 to 64, grew by at least 100 million people from 1990 until a couple of years ago. But that expansion is petering out, and more people are living longer, leaving a greater burden on a shrinking work force. Now, about 10 percent of the population is 65 or older, and according to earlier estimates, that proportion is likely to reach 15 percent by 2027 and 20 percent by 2035.

China’s population is now 1.3B+, with 30% being over 50. It’s estimated that the decision will affect 100M+ couples.