Vietnam heading for bride shortage
The Vietnamese preference for male children is likely to lead to a shortage of around 3 million brides unless the country takes effective measures, says an official.
"The ratio of gender disparity in Vietnam has reached an alarming level," said Duong Quoc Trong, general director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning.
Measures were needed to fight the trend for selective abortions, as couples come under cultural, political and economic pressures to have male children.
Speaking in the wake of Friday's World Population Day, Trong pointed to figures collected in 2009 by Vietnamese and UN research that showed there were around 111 boys for every 100 girls born in the country.
The rate was set to increase to 115 boys for every 100 girls by 2015, Trong said, leading to 3 million more men than women by the time the generation reaches marrying age.
The largest gender disparity in live births was in the populous and wealthy Red River delta, which includes Hanoi, said Dang Ba Huong, director of the Department for Statistics, Population and Labour.
The area showed 130 male for every 100 female births, he said at the World Population Day meeting in the capital.
By contrast, the Central Highlands, one of the poorest areas in the country, was still at a "safe" balance between boys and girls.
"The richer people become, the more boys they want," said Pham Thi Khuyen, director of Hung Yen Province's Division for Population and Family Planning.
"As healthcare services become more developed and advanced, people have more opportunities to choose the gender of their children."
The government is fighting the trend, closing websites which offer advice on how to have male babies, and checking up on staff practices in hospitals and clinics equipped with ultrasound machines.
Vietnamese law forbids medical personnel from telling expectant parents the sex of their unborn child, but the law is widely ignored in practice, with many girls being aborted on the basis of their gender.
"It takes the country 50 years to persuade people to accept a family of two children," said Trong.
"It will take many years to persuade them to stop choosing boys instead of girls, so importing brides is likely to happen."