The current issue of The Economist has a leader on the growing imbalance between males and females in birth cohorts in China and India and some other countries. The sex ratio at birth, or “masculinity ratio”, is normally about 1.05. Amartya Sen and Ansley Coale drew attention to the high ratios emerging in China and India some twenty years ago. The ratio has continued to rise in these countries and has now reached 1.30 in some Chinese provinces.
The Irish sex ratio at birth was 1.058 in 2008. This is exactly the median for western European countries. Moreover, there has been virtually no change in the Irish ratio over the past fifty years – it was 1.0523 in 1960 and 1.0589 in 2000. This suggests that changes such as the increased availability of pre-natal scans and the rise in pregnancy terminations by Irish women since 1960 have not had any differential gender impact.
As The Economist points out, the sex ratio is an important indicator of the place and status of women in society and the economy. The normality and stability of the Irish ratio is therefore not without its significance.