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.
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