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China Encourages Couples to Have Female Babies

For more than 25 years, China has had a "one child policy" -- limiting urban families to just one child -- to combat overpopulation. But in a culture that values boys more highly than girls, there is now a shortage of girls. For every 119 boys who are born, there are only 100 girls. The Chinese government is now moving to change that.

The Chinese government introduced the "one child policy" in 1979 -- to control its fast-growing population. The policy limits families in urban areas to having just one child. Those in rural areas are allowed to have two children, but only if the first-born is a girl. In Chinese culture -- particularly outside large cities -- boys are more highly prized than girls. But the "one child policy" has had serious consequences, with the male population growing much larger than the female population, in part because of abortion or infanticide.

In an effort remedy that, the Chinese government has implemented a new program -- in which thousands of poor, rural families are being given nearly 200 dollars a year if they only have girls. The goal -- changing traditional Chinese preferences for sons -- by raising the value of daughters. The program also gives girls government-subsidized jobs.

In addition, local education fees are being waived for girls, to encourage them to stay in school longer. Those schools are now teaching their students to respect girls. The government is also promoting its campaign with banners and billboards.

In the more traditional Chinese countryside, many women reportedly say they would still abort a pregnancy if they learned they were carrying a girl. But, anecdotal evidence appears to show that the program is working. That is good news for China's female population, which may yet grow in size to match its male population.