By guest bloggers Alex Plamp and Mary Jo Tewes from the Family Life class.
(Part one of two).
A recent post on Familyscholars.org discussed a CBS news report detailing the immense overpopulation of men currently plaguing China (the post is here; the original CBS story is here). According to the article, an average of 120 boys are born for every 100 girls, and China faces an overhang of 40 million bachelors.
As Dr. Weston stated in class earlier this semester, “An unmarried man is the most dangerous thing in the world, and large groups of them break things.” China's overpopulation of men has already led to dramatic increases in social problems, including a huge, floating population of 140 million migrant workers, as well as higher rates of crime, prostitution, and bride kidnappings. Perhaps most frightening, according to the original blog post, is the fact that societies with surpluses of men have historically engaged in expansionist foreign policies – that is, they invade their neighbors. Overpopulations of men are also a problem in India and most Muslim countries, which could lead to some nasty testosterone-fueled conflicts in the Eastern part of the world in the near future.
For 25 years, China has enforced a rule of one child per family, in order to curb its dangerously high population growth. Given the option of having only one child, families have favored boys overwhelmingly – The news article cites a traditional preference for boys in Asian societies, noting that it is men who usually care for their parents when they get older.
The one-child policy, which is enforced with sterilization and/or mandatory birth control, has decreased China’s potential population by 300 million people, which is not a bad thing in itself. But if families are forced to choose, they are much more likely to choose a boy over a girl, simply because men have a higher chance of success in society – they have more opportunities to earn money and gain power, thus providing security for their families. Therefore, rather than doing away with the one-child rule, China is making attempts to change the anti-female sentiment in the country. The CBS article says “school fees for girls have been reduced, and laws changed so daughters can inherit land,” indicating that the key to equal preference for boys and girls is going to depend on increased opportunities for women’s social, economic, and political advancement in Chinese society. That is, if women are more capable of succeeding on their own and acquiring the resources necessary to take care of their families when they get older, then parents will be much more likely to have girls.
Personally, we think this development is inevitable. Men don’t like to share women, and Chinese men are eventually going to realize that they need many, many more of them around. However, unless the anti-girl sentiment changes overnight, the one-child rule is not going to encourage much change, and it’s probably going to take a substantial amount of time to change the mindset of over a billion people.
In the meantime, here is a suggestion: What if China changed the law so that families had to stop having children after they had one girl and one boy? Naturally this is not a perfect solution – it would not help the overpopulation problem, and might lead to even more abortions (say, for example, a family already has a boy, keeps trying, but keeps having boys?) Still, something must be done to get some more women into China, before all the unmarried men go crazy and kill each other.