China forecasts 24 million lone men in 2020
Social scientists have forecast that about 24 million Chinese men would be unable to find spouses in 2020 as a traditional preference for boys and the nation's family-planning policy skew the gender ratio, state media said Monday.
Gender-selective abortions were still "extremely common" in rural areas but the gender imbalance at birth had narrowed slightly since 2005, the Global Times newspaper quoted a survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying, DPA reported.
The reasons for China's gender imbalance were complex and varied by region with low fertility and poor social security playing a part in the preference for boys, the report said.
It said the male-female ratio for live births in 2005 was 119:100, up from 116:100 in 2000.
Both the "traditional fertility culture and prenatal sex selection" pushed many couples to try for male heirs, Wang Guangzhou, an expert at the academy in demography, was quoted as saying.
"The problem is more serious in rural areas due to the lack of a social security system there," Wang said.
"Ageing farmers have to rely on their offspring," he said.
Wang said the forecast surplus of 24 million men could worsen problems such as the difficulty for men with low incomes to find spouses.
Previous government reports have linked the gender imbalance to abductions and trafficking of women and children, illegal marriages and forced prostitution.
Since China launched its initially tough one-child policy in the late 1970s, the traditional preference for boys has led to more illegal gender-selective abortions and sometimes the abandonment of baby girls.
China's population has grown to 1.3 billion, and government experts believe it would have swelled to about 1.7 billion without the one-child policy.
Many areas of China have tried to reduce the number of abortions of female foetuses by banning ultrasound scans and other methods of detecting gender in the womb.
The government also launched a "care for girls" campaign in 2000 and offered cash incentives to rural families without boys, but in 2007, it admitted that the campaign had not proved successful.