Better efforts must be made by Chinese authorities and society to protect the rights of girls, officials and experts said yesterday.
China has 119 boys born for every 100 girls, while the global ratio is 103-107 boys for every 100 girls, according to official statistics.
A major reason for the gender imbalance is the abuse of ultra-sound technology that allows families to be able to identify the sex of foetuses and abort female ones.
"Thanks to the family planning policy, China has prevented 400 million pregnancies since the 1970s, which has made a good population environment for China and the world," said Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission.
However, the gender imbalance has been becoming more and more serious in the past few years because many families, especially those in rural areas, prefer to have a boy rather than a girl, he added.
He made the remarks at the launch of a programme at Tsinghua University yesterday, which calls on young volunteers to protect the rights of girls.
A total of 200 students from various universities in Beijing have joined the programme as volunteers.
The programme was launched to coincide with the 17th World Population Day, which falls today with a theme of "Taking Action with and for Young People." In China, a theme of "Love Girls and Take Action" has been selected.
China has to stabilize the low birth rate in the coming years because, even when maintaining the present rate, its population is expected to peak at about 1.46 billion people by 2030.
Favourable policies and support must be given to families in rural areas, which have 80 per cent of the country's population, Pan Guiyu, president of China Family Planning Association, said.
Generally speaking, couples can only have one child. In rural areas, however, if their first child is a girl, they can have a second child. But if the second one is also a girl, they cannot have a third.
Pan said the desire to have a boy was caused by the fact that China is still a developing country, where farmers have to depend a lot on male labour in farming work.
Another reason, she said, was because farmers have no form of insurance or social security. They want to have a boy because, traditionally, men can make more money and support them as they become old.
In these respects, it is hard for them to relinquish the desire to have a boy and very difficult to prevent them from aborting girls, Pan told China Daily.
The government and the whole society must give more support to farmers in this situation, she added.
China has 80 million one-child families.
One-child families are very fragile because if the child dies or is involved in an accident, mothers are often too old to start a new family or have been sterilized. It can cause huge strains on families, said Pan.
According to the country's fifth national census in 2000, at least 210,000 people aged between 7 to 22 died. Half of them are from one-child families.
A pilot programme, which started in 2004, was expanded to 23 provinces last year to support those families, Pan said.
Under the programme, rural residents who are aged 60 or over and have only one child or two daughters are eligible for payments of 50 yuan (US$6) every month for the rest of their lives.
The programme is expected to expand nationwide this year, Pan said.
Source: China Daily