China’s Female Shortage

We’re used to reading about China in the context of increasing competition for scarce natural resources, most notably energy, iron and eventually water. Now Gérard-François Dumont, in a French-language article over at DiploWeb, reminds us that as an indirect consequence of its demographic campaign to limit population growth, China’s facing a shortage of a pretty essential human resource: girls. According to Dumont, in every five-year age bracket from birth to post-adolescence (0-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19), there are at least five million more Chinese boys than girls.

The potential internal consequences range from domestic societal instability, an aging population on the demographic horizon, as well as political opposition to the “only child policy” among traditional rural communities. External consequences could be an exodus of dynamic young men abroad, the militarization of “excess” males, and an immigration policy favoring women. Dumont mentions the possibility of actual war, referencing the Roman abduction of the Sabines, but acknowledges that it’s a speculative excercise.

As an aside, Dumont cited some 0-5 child mortality rates that struck me as a bit high (40 percent of girls versus 30 percent of boys, with the gap representing what amounts to a slow-motion female infanticide). A quick google search got me stumbling onto this site, Index Mundi, which is a great way to lose an afternoon if you’re interested in a global atlas made up of comparative charts and data. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)