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Skewed gender ratio creates demographic headache

Update: July, 23/2012 - 11:03

HCM CITY — An increasingly skewed sex ratio, a decline in the use of contraceptives, and a sudden baby boom in the first five months all add up to a gloomy picture for family planning authorities.

"Reports from provinces and cities in the first five months show a reduction from last year in the number of people using contraceptive methods," Tran Van Chien, deputy head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning (Ministry of Health) told a two-day seminar last week on population and family planning in northern Vinh Phuc Province.

So far this year only 600,000 women have chosen to have a coil inserted, down by 5.83 per cent year-on-year. Another 97,000 stopped using intra-uterine devices or IUDs.

The number of cases of sterilisation came down by 553, or 6 per cent, from the same period last year.

The number of people having contraceptive pills implanted – in their arms for gradual release, known as Norplants – fell by 3,000 or 37.6 per cent.

"The population and family planning task faces a lot of difficulties in this Year of the Dragon because too many are eager to have a child, especially a son, born in the year of the dominant animal," Nguyen Van Tan, deputy head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, said.

The year's targets are unlikely to be met, he added.

More than 510,000 babies were born in the first five months, a 13.5 per cent rise year-on-year, 49,955 of them being their parents' third child.

The sex ratio worsened to 113 boys to every 100 girls after 274,171 boys were born compared to only 241,998 girls.

Last year the ratio was 111.9/100.

The 10 provinces and cities with the highest imbalance in new births – ranging from 115 to 131 boys per 100 girls born – are Hung Yen, Hai Duong, Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Nam Dinh, Hoa Binh, Hai Phong city, Quang Ngai, Quang Ninh, and Vinh Phuc.

Besides the eagerness for "Dragon" boys, there has been another reason for the poor population and family planning performance this year, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien said, pointing to the delay in assigning targets and allocating funds for the National Target Programme.

He also admitted that population and family planning systems are not robust, and working conditions for population officials are not satisfactory, leading to many of them quitting.

Dr Duong Quoc Trong, head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, said: "By July 6 only five out of [the country's] 63 provinces and cities have received operational funds to carry out the National Target Programme.

"So many provinces have been unable to pay [salaries to] people.

"A lot of employees lost heart and quit their jobs." — VNS

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