The latest unemployment figures from the UK showing spiraling youth unemployment have brought with them warnings of a ‘national disaster’ from some economists. The underlying fear for many Britons, which will almost certainly be stoked implicitly and explicitly by the tabloids, is that the trend will mean hordes of jobless young men running around with nothing to do but commit crimes.
Yet the fears over angry and frustrated young men are if anything set to be more pronounced in Asia in the coming decades as a gender imbalance that has been compounded by technology allowing parents to determine the sex of an unborn child – and therefore whether they want to terminate the pregnancy.
In a 2007 report, the UN Population Fund warned:
‘One of the most alarming changes in Asia’s population dynamics in recent decades has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of males within its local populations…if the continent’s overall sex ratio was the same as elsewhere in the world, in 2005 Asia’s population would have included almost 163 million more women and girls.’
The implications of this imbalance in China, which has been exacerbated by a one-child policy that has led to many sex-selective abortions, were covered in an excellent piece by Shanghai-based Mara Hvistendahl in theNew Republic a while back. Hvistendahl notes thatthe country now has the largest gender imbalance in the world, with 37 million more men than women and about 20 percent more newborn boys than girls nationwide, and goes on to say:
‘Preliminary returns from the first generation of population-controlled kids suggest how all those unwanted men might fill up their time. Over the past decade, as the boys hit adolescence, the country’s youth crime rate more than doubled. In December, Chinese Society of Juvenile Delinquency Research Deputy Secretary General Liu Guiming told a Beijing seminar that today’s teens were committing crimes “without specific motives, often without forethought.”’
And China is not the only rising Asian power with a testosterone problem, with the UN also noting a similar trend in India and South Korea over the last 20 years.
The ultimate impact of this gender ‘social experiment’ remain to be seen, but researchers warn that it could lead to a host of other problems, including increased trafficking of girls, higher rates of alcoholism and more incidents of sexual assault against women.