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Sex ratios in China and...cosmetic surgery?

Lately, the Internet has been abuzz with articles profiling increasing numbers of young people in Asia opting for cosmetic surgery with the primary intent of improving their employment prospects as good jobs have grown scarce. Along these lines, consider this...

sex ratios falling

By last official count, there were, on average, 122 boys being born for every 100 girls in China. In some areas, the ratio jumps as high as 145 to 100. The forces driving such "family planning" are complex and touched on in the link found at the end.

All of this has to make one wonder how so many young men are ever going to find marriage partners as the young women around them begin growing more scarce than good jobs.

Already, there is an uptick in female immigration from Southeast East into countries like China and South Korea for the main purpose of providing local men with matrimonial prospects. Some such cross-cultural marriages work out well, but many don't, the reality being that most local men and their families prefer to find a wife from within their own cultures.

In any case, this profound sex ratio imbalance in China has been the subject of countless political, social, and economic discussions about how it will shape the future of not just China but all of Asia.

Recently, Professor Shang-Jin Wei, a Professor of Chinese Business and Economy at the Columbia Business School in New York, made an interesting observation.

"The increased pressure on the marriage market in China might induce men and parents with sons to do things to make themselves more competitive," Professor Wei noted. "Increasing savings is one logical way to do that, to the extent that wealth helps to increase a man's competitive edge."

When Dr. Wei put this hypothesis to a test, he found that families with sons saved more than families with daughters in all regions of the country, and that households that save the very most are the ones that happen to be in the regions with the most skewed sex ratios.

Wei estimated that "the household savings in China rose from 16 percent of disposable income in 1990 to over 30 percent today," and that "about half of the increase in savings rate of the last 25 years can be attributed to the rise in the sex ratio imbalance."

So what more besides a comfortable dowry might give a man a competitive edge in the face of a dwindling supply of local women?

Unless something else has changed in China, physical appearance has to be right up there after money and personality when a women is evaluating her marital options.

And what can a man do about it? A healthy diet, no smoking, and plenty of exercise offers the most benefit, but there remain some physical issues like localized stubborn fat deposits or acne-pocked skin or inherited physical imbalances that just don't seem to respond to anything so natural.

Enter the plastic surgeon. If young patients will undergo plastic surgery to land a better job, they'll certainly do the same to land a local mate.

While undergoing elective surgery merely to spark new romance has long been viewed in the West as an unrealistic and unhealthy reason, the validity of such advice in East Asia may no longer seem so obvious.

The tsunami has started and is picking up force. Don't be surprised to find men contributing as much if not more than women to the upcoming Chinese Wave in plastic surgery.

Article by Dr. Wei here.

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