New Report Analyses Skewed Birth Ratios in Viet Nam

Viet Nam has experienced an unusual rapid rise of the sex ratio at birth (SRB) over the last few years. While in 2000 the SRB was at normal levels and was estimated to be 106.2 male births per 100 female births, it increased to 112.1 in 2008. The current growth of 1 point per year since 2006 means that the SRB might cross the 115 mark within three years, according to the report “Recent change in the sex ratio at birth in Viet Nam”, published by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

One of the main factors behind this rise relates to the steadily increasing access to affordable sex-determination and sex-selection technology, which has allowed couples to pursue their desire for o­ne or more sons.

Experience reported in other nations such as China and India, shows that sex ratio imbalances spread quickly throughout their countries. “If this trend is repeated in Viet Nam and the spread continues its rapid pace, it may become a more serious problem in the future, significantly affecting the population’s demographic and sex structure,” said UNFPA Representative, Bruce Campbell.

The report says that if the sex ratio imbalance continues to increase after 2010, there will be a great impact o­n men who are born after 2005 and would be entering their marriageable age from 2030 o­nwards, because they would find themselves in much higher numbers than women their age. By 2035, the surplus adult men would amount to 10 per cent or more of the female population, if the sex ratio does not return to its normal level of 105 male births per 100 female births, in the next two decades.

Scarcity of women would increase pressure for them to marry at a younger age, there may be a rising demand for sex work and the trafficking networks may also expand in response to this imbalance. Examples of gender-based violence and human trafficking have already been observed in Viet Nam and point to some of the risks faced by vulnerable girls and women.

“The consequences of a significant imbalance between men and women should be taken into account in all related policy decisions, including further enforcement of the regulations governing sex-selection services in the country,” said Mr. Campbell.

In order to ensure a better monitoring of the SRB deterioration and adequate policy responses to the challenges this poses to Vietnamese society, the UNFPA report makes clear that there is a need for data to examine the intensity and distribution of sex selection behaviour across the country. In addition, more qualitative research needs to be conducted to better understand the factors underlying this recent change in sex selection practices. Finally, the report suggests that findings from studies o­n the SRB should be shared with the general public, civil society and health community, in order to encourage a change in behaviour that so clearly discriminates against girls and women.