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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Chinese given perks to have girls
Boy and girl in Hainan (archive picture)
There are far more boys than girls in China
A pilot programme in rural China is offering cash and other incentives to families who have daughters.

Families with girls get free schooling and better housing, the official China Daily reported, as part of an effort to tackle the country's gender imbalance.

About 117 boys are born for every 100 girls, according to official figures.

Many reasons have been given for the traditional male bias, including under-reporting of female births, adoption and selective abortion or infanticide.

The National Population and Family Planning Commission has called for a nationwide effort to "create a favourable environment" for females, the China Daily reported.

The commission wants its Care for Girls pilot programme to bring the gender balance down to a level of between 103 and 107 boys born per 100 girls.

The gender disparity is beginning to cause alarm in many parts of China. In southern provinces such as Hainan and Guangdong, the ratio is now up to 130 boys per 100 girls, officials told Reuters news agency.

By 2020, it has been estimated that China could have more than 30 million bachelors, and there has recently been an increase in the number of women being sold into prostitution or as wives.

But moves are afoot to redress the imbalance.

In Fujian province, the authorities have provided 200 million yuan ($24million) insurance for 490,000 households with daughters, the China Daily said.

Nearly 100,000 girls in the province are also exempt from paying school fees, the newspaper said.

Daughters-only families in other provinces have also been given privileges in housing, employment, education and welfare support, the China Daily said.

Zhang Weiqing, head of the National Population and Planning Commission, said correcting the gender imbalance was only a short-term goal.

In the longer term, the aim is to promote gender equality in opportunities.

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