Official suggests carrot instead of stick to improve Vietnam sex ratio

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Vietnam can narrow its worsening sex ratio at birth by offering more incentives to girls and families with only girls, a family planning official said at a conference in Hanoi Wednesday.

Duong Quoc Trong, head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, said besides current measures like propaganda and tightening control over sex determination tests, the government should adopt policies that support families with daughters, news website VnExpress reported.

Exemption from medical and tuition fees for girls and giving them priority in jobs are some measures foreign experts believe are practical, he said.

Failure to do so would send the sex ratio -- or the number of boy babies to girls -- soaring to 113.5 (113.5 boys to 100 girls) by the end of this year, meaning the earlier plan to contain it at 113 by 2015 would go out of the window, he said.

The ratio increased from 109.8 in 2006 to as high as 112.3 in the first quarter of this year, the Year of the Dragon, which is considered a good year to have a son in East Asia.

In some provinces such as Quang Binh in the central region and Bac Ninh in the north, the ratio last year was 130.

Abortions are a major factor in widening the gap since many families are still loyal to the traditional belief that sons carry on the families' material as well as spiritual lineage while daughters become outsiders once they marry into another family.

The imbalance will mean a shortfall of 2.3-4.3 million women by 2050, causing many men to have to delay their marriage or not be able to find a wife at all, he said.

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"The consequence is that there will be more violence and an increase in prostitution, trafficking, kidnapping, and rape of women and baby girls.

"Women will get even less fair treatment and suffer more physical and psychological abuses," he said.

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