Gender Imbalances and the PRC's Material Girls

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/12/2010 12:01:00 AM
Gender imbalances in China resulting from sex-selective abortion due to the so-called one child policy are posing troubling questions for the future of the country. Dubious Freakonomics-style explanations of this phenomenon having been debunked, there are real policy implications here: How will lopsided gender ratios affect the PRC's fertility rate going forward? Also, how will millions and millions of young men with limited chances of finding companionship vent their frustrations? Development economist du jour Esther Duflo suggests "violence":
Boys are having trouble getting married. And young men, particularly single ones, have more behavioural problems and commit more crimes than young women...To what extent is the rise in the number of young men responsible for the increase in crime? A recent study by Chinese and American researchers: “Sex ratio and crime: Evidence from China’s one-Child Policy” (by Edlund, Li, Yi, and Zhang) answers this question by comparing the increase in the number of crimes between 1998 and 2004 in regions where the one-child policy was strictly enforced with the same increase in regions where parents were allowed a second child if the first were a girl (where the boy-girl ratio is much closer to normal). They conclude that the one-child policy explains one-seventh of the increase in crime.
It will be interesting but somewhat frightening to monitor what will become of this unwitting social experiment the Chinese have unleashed. Human trafficking may rise. Certainly, there is a possibility of jingoism that can result in military adventurism--remove trouble at home (criminality) and export it abroad. With PRC leadership becoming increasingly confident and the Chinese military becoming increasingly bellicose, plentiful recruits may be close at hand.

Meanwhile, however, there are some enterprising Chinese making matchmaking a business that can only become more important in the future as matters worsen due to "Little Emperors" (pampered male offspring born during the height of the one-child policy era) coming of age. As with many things in life, however, being well-off pays off in this respect:
Xu Tianli is the founder of Golden Bachelor, an online dating site catering to an expanding class of super-wealthy Chinese singletons who have it all except for one thing: a bride. So they pay, a lot, to find one. The Golden Bachelor "Diamond Love" membership goes for 300,000 Yuan ($44,000). The Web site states in Chinese the qualifications for joining: a personal or family wealth of at least 2 million yuan ($292,000); a background that is extremely superior, wealthy and aristocratic; very good personal qualities or young, talented and beautiful.

"More and more Chinese people are finding love from Web sites," said Xu, 36. "The difference between us from other dating sites is we only focus on high-level clients -- those with a high social status or superior physical condition. We don't focus on the mass general public." Golden Bachelor says it has 5 million registered members and employs psychologists and special matchmaking consultants to personally assist multi-millionaires in their pursuit of romance.
Then there are sociological quandaries that the Chinese government is aware of but has yet to address:
In a society where 24 million Chinese men will find themselves lacking wives by 2020 because of the country's gender imbalance, according to a recent study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, it could get highly competitive.

"Men at the bottom of the social hierarchy are going to have very few chances to meet women," said James Farrer, author of "Opening Up: Youth Sex Culture and Market Reform in Shanghai. This is going to be very apparent in the future as poor men with few economic resources just won't find women," Farrer said. "Women won't benefit from this imbalance either. These are the women who are highly educated and have high career ambitions. They will be competing for men at the top of the social hierarchy."
I wouldn't want to be Taiwan if the PRC doesn't get around to addressing this problem. In the meantime, what Madonna once sang may hold for many Chinese ladies in an increasingly competitive meet market--'cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right.