Men Without Women: China and India Face a Cultural Paradigm Shift
In China and India today, men outnumber women by a combined total of more than 70 million. The consequences are far-reaching and have begun to affect neighboring countries and economies, such as Vietnam and Cambodia.
According to a report in The Washington Post, four key aspects of society have been altered in China and India as a result of the gender imbalance: village life and mental health; housing prices and savings rates; human trafficking; and public safety.
China has 136 unmarried men for every 100 unmarried women born since the 1980s. Many Chinese men now find that to have a wife, they are expected to own an apartment and possess a large bank account. Pressure to meet these “standards” is heavy.
In some cases, such as that of 24-year-old Wang (whose first name is not given in a Washington Post report), men begin working at age 14 in order to accumulate the money they feel they need for marriage. Like many other males, Wang left his village for a city and works 11 to 12 hours a day, with only two days off each month. Although he has saved enough to buy a house, he says he feels financially inadequate and is struggling to find a wife.
China’s huge trade surplus with the U.S.—$375 billion in 2017—is caused in part by young men holding on to their money rather than buying consumer goods. Eventually they sink their savings into home purchases, while keeping the household savings rate extremely high. Housing prices in major cities have skyrocketed as a result of such buying trends.
Some single men must pass a “bride price” threshold in order to earn the approval of prospective in-laws. A decade or two ago, that sum was a few hundred dollars, but today it can reach nearly $30,000, according to a survey by the People’s Daily, China’s largest newspaper.
Liu Hua, who lives with his wife in southeastern China, told The Washington Post that their village contains 50 to 60 bachelors but only one or two single women.
In 2010, a state-endorsed union that surveyed thousands of migrants across the country found that 70 percent of them who were construction workers reported loneliness to be the most painful aspect of their lives. That same year, 119 boys were born for every 100 girls in China.
In India, 112 boys are born for every 100 girls. Many Indian men in their mid-30s are facing the fact that they are considered too old for a wife and family. In some of the more traditional villages, once they miss out on marriage, they have no hope of female companionship. There are 7,000 villages in northern India that have surpluses of 150-200 men.
As The Washington Post reports:
The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations. …
“In the future, there will be millions of men who can’t marry, and that could pose a very big risk to society,” warns Li Shuzhuo, a leading demographer at Xi’an Jiaotong University.
Out of China’s population of 1.4 billion, there are nearly 34 million more males than females—the equivalent of almost the entire population of California, or Poland, who will never find wives and only rarely have sex. China’s official one-child policy, in effect from 1979 to 2015, was a huge factor in creating this imbalance, as millions of couples were determined that their child should be a son.
India, a country that has a deeply held preference for sons and male heirs, has an excess of 37 million males, according to its most recent census. The number of newborn female babies compared with males has continued to plummet, even as the country grows more developed and prosperous. The imbalance creates a surplus of bachelors and exacerbates human trafficking, both for brides and, possibly, prostitution. Officials attribute this to the advent of sex-selective technology in the last 30 years, which is now banned but still in widespread practice.
In 1979, in efforts to slow population growth, China implemented a policy that restricted families to one child. According to a report in Newsweek, this created a condition in which couples would abort a female once her gender had been determined. Sons are considered the bearers of family lines, and they also are meant to provide for parents once they get old, while women become part of someone else’s family.
By the mid-1980s, families in rural areas were allowed to have two children if the first one was a girl, although this did not stop many families from aborting their unborn child once they knew its gender. The one-child policy was phased out in 2016.
Although 12 to 15 percent of young Chinese adult males have no hopes of marrying their female counterparts, some are turning to women from other nations to find a spouse, Newsweek reports. Tens of thousands of foreign women who live in poverty in their home countries are pouring into China for marriage. Chinese websites, such as ZhongYueLove.com (China-Viet-Love), offer brides for a price—up to $8,000, in some cases, and websites assure potential buyers that the women won’t run away. Lured by promises of work and money, many women from Cambodia and Vietnam become trapped and sometimes are trafficked as prostitutes.
In January, the Indian government reported that more than 63 million women were “missing” from its population, estimating that 2 million had been removed from society by abortion of female fetuses, disease, neglect and inadequate nutrition.
The government’s chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, said that Indians have a “meta” son preference, meaning that if a couple bears girls, they will continue having children till they have a boy. Subramanian says this has led to about 21 million unwanted girls in India, who often get less nourishment and schooling than their male siblings.
The northern state of Haryana, which has the worst sex ratio in the country, records the highest number of gang rapes in country.
According to The Guardian, Armenia is another country in which male babies are preferred. There are 120 boys born to every 100 girls in the Gavar region in the east of the nation.