- There will be 4.7 million fewer girls born over the next 10 years due to sex-selective practices in some countries, a new study says.
- The authors said this may lead to a "marriage squeeze" and "social disruption" in the long term.
- In 80 years, there may be a shortfall of 22 million girls born, disrupting gender balance.
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There will be 4.7 million fewer girls born over the next 10 years due to sex-selective practices in some countries, according to a new study published Monday in the medical journal Global Health BMJ,
Researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia used data from 3.26 billion births from 204 countries over 50 years. They then narrowed their study to the 29 countries where a preference for sons had been documented.
Sex selection documented in Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia has already led to a higher ratio of males to females at birth since 1970. If it continues apace, the study's authors say there will be 4.7 fewer females born over the next ten years. That could compound to 22 million fewer girls born by 2100.
In 12 countries – including China, India, and Vietnam – the male-to-female ratio had increased since 1970. While for 17 others – such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria – the ratio was projected to increase.
The authors noted that the skewed gender proportion may lead to "elevated levels of antisocial behavior and violence, and may ultimately affect long-term stability and socially sustainable development."
There may also be a "marriage squeeze," the authors said, due to a lack of marriageable females.
China is currently feeling the "marriage squeeze" as it continues to feel the effects of its four-decade one-child policy, which caused many families to pursue pre-natal sex selection in order to have a son to carry on the family name.
The policy, which was introduced in 1979 and abolished in 2015, created a phenomenon known as "bare branches," a moniker for the approximately 35 million or so "surplus" marriage-age males who are unable to find partners.
The importance of producing a male heir continues to influence the culture: In 2020, the National Census reported there were 111.3 boys for every 100 girls born, according to the South China Morning Post.
At present, there is already a gender disparity in the global population, with women making up 49.6% of the world's global population in 2020, according to World Bank data. In Bahrain, women only made up only 35.3% of the population in 2020. And in Qatar, there are nearly three men for every one woman.
In the report, the authors called for "broader legal frameworks to ensure gender equality" and "influence gender norms that lie at the core of harmful practices such as prenatal sex selection."