According to the World Bank, South Korea is the first Asian country to reverse the trend of rising sex ratios. In 2013 it reported 105.3 boys born for every 100 girls, a number that is close to that of Western countries. The country has as many women as men. There are 25.08 million women versus 25.14 million men.

Like in India, the attitude in South Korea was that of giving boys more importance.

However, a few decades ago that number was as high as 116.5 boys born for every 100 girls. Like in India, the attitude in South Korea was that of giving boys more importance. Boys are seen as providers of financial support and someone to carry the family name forward.

The country had put in place a law which made it illegal to find out the sex of a foetus in 1988. In 2009, the law was tweaked to let parents know if their baby is a boy or girl, 32 weeks after conception.

Women live an average of 84.5 years compared to the  77.6 years men live

Another factor that contributed to the decline in the gap between the number of men and women is that the life expectancy of Korean when is higher than that of Korean men. Women live an average of 84.5 years compared to the  77.6 years men live.

In India there are 914 girls born for every 1000 boys according to 2011 census data. What is surprising is that there is no correlation between rising income and declining gap in the male-female ratio. According to India Spend, increased literacy and income makes it easier for families to access sex-selective procedures. A case in point is Delhi which had the second higher per capita income in 2013-14 but whose sex ratio still remains 896 girls born for every 1000 boys.

U-turn of South Korea’s gender ratio can be interesting example for India and China to learn from

Also as families become smaller, the pressure on women to have sons increases. The one child policy in China, by restricting family size, led to widespread abortion of female foetuses, as was widely reported.

The complete U-turn of South Korea’s gender ratio can be interesting example for India and China to learn from.

But all is not perfect when it comes to gender in South Korea, as the country still has a long way to go when it comes to women rising to top leadership positions. According to a 2014 report, South Korea had a 37.4 percent gender wage gap, the largest amongst the OECD countries in 2014. Women’s participation remains an issue for the country.

Feature Picture Credit: The Economist

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