Local governments in China, faced with growing peasant resistance to the one-child policy, are trying to soften the blow to families whose one child turns out to be a girl.
A county in southeastern China's Jiangxi province has set up an old-age insurance program for couples who have a girl and then agree to be sterilized, the official People's Daily said Friday.Another county in Guangdong province has set up a similar program with the local government and parents of girls jointly contributing to a pension fund, the paper said.
China, seeking to control a population that already exceeds 1.08 billion, has mandated that most families can have only one child. But peasant families want boys to help in the fields and support them in their old age. For centuries girls have been regarded as a burden because once they become old enough to make money they marry into another family.
As China's economic reforms have made peasants wealthier, more and more are willing to pay fines and have a second or third child if the first ones turn out to be girls. China also has acknowledged a growing problem of girl babies being aborted, killed at birth or abandoned, creating a sex ratio imbalance.
The People's Daily said the new old-age insurance plans are designed to overcome the disadvantages of having a girl.
In the Jiangxi case, local governments and industries have donated to a fund that will be invested, and parents of girls who are sterilized can receive payments after they reach age 55.
In Guangdong, families can draw on the pension fund after 25 years.
Women are under strong pressure from their husbands and in-laws to have sons. The official China Daily recently reported the case of a young woman in Beijing whose in-laws threw her out of the house because she had a girl.
A survey of nearly 300 rural families in central China's Henan province found that more girls than boys were born from 1977 to 1984, but that since 1984 the number of surviving boys babies has been nearly twice the number of girls.