Ru­ral-China spe­cial­ist on pref­er­ence for boys

Ox­ford pro­fes­sor said gov­ern­ment’s ‘Care for Girls’ pro­gram has had some suc­cess in stamp­ing out se­lec­tive abor­tions, re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

The pref­er­ence for cou­ples to have sons in ru­ral China still re­mains very strong, Rachel Mur­phy said. The as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford said hav­ing a boy in a so­ci­ety where there is not much pro­vi­sion for so­cial wel­fare is the only way to en­sure fu­ture fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity.

“I re­mem­ber talk­ing to a woman who said her life was not go­ing well be­cause she had given birth to another daugh­ter,” she said.

“I told her not to be too de­spon­dent be­cause (US) Pres­i­dent (Barack) Obama has two daugh­ters. She just said, ‘Yes, but he is not a Chi­nese farmer’.”

Mur­phy, a 44-year-old Aus­tralian, was speak­ing in the new Dick­son Poon China Cen­tre at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford.

She has spent much of her ca­reer study­ing ru­ral peo­ple in China, par­tic­u­larly in Jiangxi and An­hui prov­inces.

One of her spe­cial­ties is China’s sex-ra­tio im­bal­ances. Af­ter the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy was in­tro­duced in 1979, the num­ber of boys born for ev­ery 100 girls soared to 120 in 2000 (more than 130 in some ru­ral ar­eas), boosted partly when ul­tra­sound tech­nol­ogy made abor­tion of fe­male fe­tuses pos­si­ble. The gov­ern­ment aims to bring the ra­tio to 112 next year. The nat­u­ral birth rate where there is no fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy is 105 boys to girls across all so­ci­eties.

“This im­bal­ance was there his­tor­i­cally and all through the Mao pe­riod as well. Chi­nese par­ents have al­ways wanted to have at least one son and just car­ried on hav­ing chil­dren un­til they had a son.”

Mur­phy be­lieves the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has had some suc­cess in right­ing the im­bal­ance with its “Care for Girls”, first pi­loted in 2003 and aimed at stamp­ing out se­lec­tive abor­tion.

She be­lieves there might be spe­cial cul­tural fac­tors in China that make it dif­fi­cult to erad­i­cate pref­er­ence for sons al­to­gether.

“There was a view that China would be­come like South Korea. It, too, had this sex-ra­tio im­bal­ance but as the coun­try ur­ban­ized this was largely erad­i­cated.

“In China, both rich and poor ar­eas have sex-ra­tio im­bal­ances, how­ever. This is par­tic­u­larly

When I started to study China it was seen as a fairly mar­ginal topic; now ev­ery­body wants to know about it.” as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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