Around the world and for all time periods, nature provides that a little bit more boys than girls are born. In some countries, due to human intervention, there are a lot more boys born than girls at birth. However, for later ages, the number of women outranges the number of men in the majority of countries. How can this paradox be explained?
The natural “sex ratio at birth” is 105. This means that at birth, there are 105 males for every 100 females . Nature provides that the number of baby boys slightly outrage the number of baby girls because men have a higher risk at dying than women. This is true for every age and particularly for early years in life (Gompertz law of mortality).
While there exists no country with a sex ratio at birth below 100, there are several countries that have sex ratios at birth much higher than 105. Whenever a country’s sex ratio exceeds the 105-threshold, the ratio is not “natural” any more. Societies with a dominating preference for baby boys tend to intervene in nature and reduce the number of born baby girls by sex-selective abortion and infanticide. An under-registration of female births also contributes to sex ratios at birth above the natural level. In China for example, more than 120 boys are born to 100 girls, mainly due to the country’s one child policy in combination with preference for men. Other countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan , Georgia and India also have very high sex ratios at birth. Even some developed countries such as South Korea and Singapore are concerned. The CIA estimates that the current world wide sex ratio at birth is 107 boys to 100 girls.
Sex ratio at birth:
Image Source: http://www.economist.com/node/15636231
“Gendercide” based on new technology (ultrasound scan…), declining fertility and ancient prejudice lead to a large number of “missing women”, i.e. women that are literally not alive due to family neglect and discrimination. According to estimations of Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen, around 100 million women are “missing” worldwide. This gender imbalance has serious negative consequences for all of society in the middle and long run, as it leads among other things to increasing violence among men, bride trafficking and prostitution, deteriorated labour markets, solitude and mental illness etc…
However, the extent and the consequences of imbalanced sex ratios at birth are often underestimated and sometimes even neglected. This is, inter alia, due to the fact that -when considering all ages-, in most countries of the world there are (still) more women living then men.
Sex ratio for all ages:
- Pink = More women than men
- Green = Equal
- Blue = More men than women
- Grey = No data
But why are there more women living than men on average in most countries when considering all ages? Actually, the world map above shows that women outrange men particularly in developed countries, where life expectancy has been increasing significantly over the last decades. And it is especially women who benefit from this evolution. Men tend to die earlier than women especially in these countries where life expectancy is high. The gender gap in life expectancy is most pronounced in those who live 100 years or more. Among these “centenarians” worldwide, women outnumber males nine to one. However, the most recent developments suggest that the times of an increasing gender gap in life expectancy have come to an end. In developed countries, life expectancy for men increased by almost three years in the last decade to narrow the gender gap with women.
Nevertheless, the gender gap in life expectancy is still alarmingly high in some regions of the world. In Russia, for example, every second person aged 65+ is a woman! This reflects a serious “health crisis” in Russia, whose principal victims are men. Men turn out to be more sensible to stresses related to economic transition (collapse of the social safety net, lack of strict road safety measures, decline in fruit and vegetable consumption, sedentary lifestyles) and therefore have a shorter life expectancy, particularly due to cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks), diabetes and cancers. Thus, in Russia, unemployment and insufficient social security often linked to “bad behavioral habits” like drinking and smoking, can be blamed for a high number of “missing men”.
As of 2011, the global sex ratio is approximately 1.01 males to 1 woman. So, do “missing men” offset “missing women”? Of course not. It is clear that the concept of gender equality calls for preventive action to both fight against missing men and missing women. What can we do to reduce the number of missing women? Increases in girls’ education, which lead to increases in their income, is the most effective way to increase their value in the eyes of parents. Before this effect sets in, stricter laws and controls are needed to avoid sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. What can we do to reduce the number of missing men? Preventive health investments for men, combined with information campaigns, can be a fruitful instrument to encourage those “at risk” to change their lifestyles and see a doctor on a regular basis.
Source: Angela Luci’s own contribution
Related article on this blog: 160 million “missing” women