More boys are being born in Hong Kong as more mainland women give birth to preponderantly male babies here, causing the sex ratio among the city's young to widen, local experts said.
The ratio has kept growing at least since 2005, from about 110 boys for every 100 girls that year, to above 111, 112 and 113 respectively in the next three years, the South China Morning Post has reported, quoting figures from the Census and Statistics Department.
At this rate, the ratio may soon approach the 120 to 130 found in some provinces in mainland China, the newspaper pointed out.
Although the children of mainland mothers might not be raised in Hong Kong, they are counted as Hong Kong residents who can come any time to claim their rights to education and social services. In 2008, nearly half of all births in Hong Kong were offspring of mainlanders.
Three local medical practitioners recently analysed birth data between 2003 and 2007 recorded in public hospitals and concluded that mainland mothers are responsible for the widening sex ratio in Hong Kong, reported the Post.
According to the study, although more than 72 per cent of the over 194,600 babies listed in the data were born to Hong Kong mothers, the sex ratio at birth for the group was only 107.8 boys for every 100 girls. That figure pales in comparison with the ratio of 111.6 recorded among mainland mothers.
Dr Grace Wong, the study's chief author, added that the availability of foetal sex determination services in Hong Kong was what fuelled the male births. The service is illegal in mainland China.
Pregnant mainland women intending to give birth in Hong Kong would first come here to learn the sex of their babies, the study said. Some would cancel their birth bookings on discovering that they were expecting girls.
Ruling out nature as the determinant of the sex ratio, the team said that the mainland women in question were mainly from southern China, who shared similar biological traits and environmental backgrounds with their Hong Kong counterparts.
'The most plausible explanation... is the practice of sex selection,' the report said, affirming that human choice is to blame.
The researchers warned that the 'abnormally skewed' sex ratio may have disastrous social consequences for Hong Kong, such as shortage of marriageable females in future, which is already a real scenario looming in China.
However, University of Hong Kong demographer Paul Yip does not think Hong Kong would suffer from a deficit of brides.
'This is because many Hong Kong men will marry mainland women and bring them to Hong Kong, and women's life expectancy is longer,' said Dr Yip, suggesting that social and natural trends would be correctives.
In addition, there are also now more women than men among the Hong Kong population aged 20 to 35.
But that might not be the case among their juniors as Hong Kong-born children from the mainland would likely return soon in huge numbers.
Dr Yip called on the government to watch out for that trend and make preparations, such as proper allocation of resources, to cope with it.