Gender imbalance threatens Vietnam's social stability: experts

By VnExpress   December 15, 2016 | 02:39 am PT
Gender imbalance threatens Vietnam's social stability: experts
A clinic on Hanoi's Giai Phong Street offering abortion services. Population agencies are discussing policies to address the highly skewed gender balance in the country. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam
The pursuit of sons could lead to a rise in human trafficking and sex crimes, officials warn.

Vietnam is about to face a huge gender imbalance, mainly driven by a long-standing cultural preference for boys.

As many as 4.3 million men are likely to remain lifelong bachelors in the next 30 years, Mai Xuan Phuong, a senior official from the Population and Family Planning under the Health Ministry, told the media at a workshop on Wednesday.

In 2006, for example, the government reported 110 boys were born for every 100 girls, as compared to the natural rate of between 103 and 106 boys to every 100 girls.

The imbalance has been on a steady rise in recent years and ran as high as 112 boys to 100 girls last year. In the countryside, the ratio of boys can run much higher, according the government official.

In the long term, Vietnam's excess population of males might reach between 2.3 and 4.3 million by 2050, according to one estimate.

Vietnam’s vast population of unmarried men is sure to pose an array of challenges, Phuong warned.

The social consequences of a population heavily tilted toward men include family conflicts, social unrest, gender inequality, and an overall rise in crime like the trafficking of women and sexual abuse, said Le Canh Nhac, deputy head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning.

He warned that an excess of men is expected to lead to a surge in “bride imports” as unmarried local men pay marriage brokers to find them women, mostly in neighboring countries.

More noticeably, the deputy director added that the gender imbalance has risen while the number of new babies appears to have fallen.

He emphasized that the birth rate in remote and impoverished areas is higher than in major cities.

Statistics showed the average birth rate in Ho Chi Minh City -- the southern commercial hub -- was 1.45 children per couple in 2009 while the rate in the mountainous province of Ha Giang was 3.08 during the same year.

Vietnam thus faces two problems at once: a rapidly ageing population and a growing gender imbalance, Nhac continued.

According to government figures, Vietnam currently has a total population of 93 million -- 10.5 percent of which is aged 60 or over.

That's 9.8 million senior citizens.

Vietnam expected to benefit from a young, economically active population between 2010 and 2040. However, due to a lower birthrate and longer life expectancy, the country is aging rapidly and its workforce is shrinking rapidly.

Updated government figures project that by 2030 one in six Vietnamese will be over 60; by 2060 a quarter of the population will be 60 or older.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Vietnam’s working-age population has increased about 50 percent in the past 100 years; during the same period, its population of citizens aged 60 or older soared by 300 percent.

What took between 60 and 100 years in Europe and North America is set to occur in just two to three decades in many Asia-Pacific countries, according to the UNDP deputy country director in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s demographic window is about to close as its ageing process is forecast to take only 15 years, Nhac said.

The Southeast Asian country plans to keep its population below 98 million people by 2020.

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