BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese parents are being offered cash rewards to give their newborn children the mother's last name, a report said Friday, in an unusual attempt to address the traditional preference for sons.
Women who marry in China keep their own surnames, but their children almost invariably take the father's name and ensure its continuation into the next generation.
Now officials in Changfeng county in the eastern province of Anhui are giving 1,000 yuan (S$202) to couples who take part in the "surname reform" plan, the Jianghuai Morning Post reported.
They hope the move will help to gradually change the common perception that giving birth to a son is preferable to having a daughter, it said, and nearly 30 couples have already volunteered.
China suffers from a huge gender imbalance as a result of sex-selective abortions and the strict family-planning law known as the one-child policy. Female infanticide and the abandoning of baby girls have also been reported.
In most countries, males slightly outnumber females, with between 103 and 107 boys born for every 100 girls, but China had nearly 118 male births for every 100 females in 2012.
In Changfeng county, that ratio has reached nearly 130 boys for every 100 girls, according to the Jianghuai Morning Post.
"Our goal is to promote an idea - for families to give their newborn child the surname of whoever they want," Gong Cunbing, deputy director of the county population and family planning committee, told the paper.
China's has tens of millions more men than women, experts say, one of the worst distortions in the world.
Many of those men are now unable to find Chinese brides - a phenomenon that has become a key driver of trafficking of women from Southeast Asia to China, according to campaign groups.
Daughters have often been regarded as a liability because parents have to provide a dowry on marriage. They will also go to live with their husband's family, so sons are seen as a guarantee of care in old age.
Men generally earn more than women in China, and in rural areas, boys are preferred for their ability to work the land.