As many as 24 million eligible bachelors in China may never be able to marry because of a lack of women in the country.

New stats from the State-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences show there has been no let up in China’s 20-year-old gender imbalance.

Authorities say the normal male-female ratio is between 103-107 males for every 100 females. But the latest figures show that in 2005, there were 119 boys for every 100 girls in China. The study said that in some areas the ratio was as high as 130-100.

The study pointed to sex-specific abortions as a major factor in the skewed population of 1.3 billion, where a cultural preference for male children persists.

While noting that there were complex factors involved, the study said that “sex-specific abortions remained extremely commonplace, especially in rural areas”.

The study said a key factor leading to the imbalance was the nation’s family-planning policy, which restricts the number of children citizens may have. They also cited an insufficient social security system which led parents to prefer male offspring because of their greater earning potential.

Researchers said the figures suggested there would be problems for men with lower incomes in finding spouses, as well as a burgeoning age gap between partners.

Wang Yuesheng, one of the researchers involved, said men in poorer parts of the country would either be forced to remain single forever or to accept marriage late in life.

“The chance of getting married will be rare if a man is more than 40 years old in the countryside. They will be more dependent on social security as they age and have fewer household resources to rely on,” Wang said.

Abductions and trafficking of women are said to be “rampant” in areas with excess numbers of men, while illegal marriages and forced prostitution were also major problems in those areas.

The study urged the Chinese government to relax the so-called “one-child” policy and study the possibility of encouraging “cross-country marriages”.

China first implemented its population control policy in 1979, generally limiting families to one child, with some exceptions for rural farmers, ethnic minorities and other groups.

It has said the policy has averted 400 million births.

Researchers said the gender imbalance problem first cropped up in the late 1980s when the use of ultrasound technology became more prevalent, allowing women to easily determine the sex of their foetuses.

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Bill Lehane
Bill Lehane, 28, is a journalist and freelance writer from Dublin, Ireland. He recently returned from six months working as a teacher in east China, which gave him a chance to experience many of the wide, weird and wacky sights that make up daily life in the Middle Kingdom. However, he did not succeed in teaching the local teenagers anything whatsoever: they still love Michael Jackson, KFC and themselves. More at
Bill Lehane

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