Which countries have more women than men?

Image: Tom Magliery via Flickr
Image: Tom Magliery via Flickr

Many single English men will know that Nottingham is the place to go if you’re in search of love. It has long been said that women far outnumber men in Robin Hood’s former stomping ground – by as many as six times! These testosterone-fuelled pilgrimages are in vein, however, as the 2001 census showed that the gender balance in Nottingham is about equal. Sorry lads, this myth may have been popularised by stag do organisers. That’s not to say there aren’t places in the world where there is an uneven gender balance, however.

Generally speaking, you would expect there to be more women alive than men. On average, women live longer than men, and the majority of countries have a greater proportion of females to males in the over-65 age range. In April 2015 the fairer sex dominated the list of oldest living people in the world to such an extent that the oldest man in the world only came in at number 35 on the list! Strangely though, it is not women, but men, who make up the majority of the world’s population. Adding up the total number of men and women in all the countries in the world, we discover that there are about 2% more men than women on planet Earth. Or, put another way, in 2010, there were 102 men for every 100 women.

You may have been told in biology class that your chances of having a boy or a girl are exactly 50:50, but statistics say that every country in the world (apart from Kazakhstan and Nauru) saw more male than female births in 2014. Why this should be is puzzling. Egg and sperm cells are formed when a cell divides and splits its DNA in two. All eggs are ‘female’ (they contain an X chromosome), whereas only half of sperm cells are ‘female’, the other half being ‘male’ (they contain the Y male sex chromosome). On average, there should be a 50:50 chance of a male or female sperm reaching the egg first. Extensive research has sought to find out why this may not be the case and why male babies outnumber females. Several reasons have been suggested and seemingly trivial factors such as the temperature may even play a part (as is the case with turtles and crocodiles). One research group found that an increase of 1?C in annual temperature favours the chances of producing a son. (But before you go flocking to the Mediterranean to try for a boy, you should know that the chances may only increase by 0.1%.)

Lots of countries buck the male-dominated trend, however, and do have more women than men:

1)   Estonia (there are 19% more women than men here!)
2)   Djibouti (16%)
3)   Latvia (16%)
4)   Russia (16%)
5)   Ukraine (16%)
6)   Belarus (15%)
7)   Lithuania (12%)
8)   Armenia (12%)
9)   Antigua and Barbuda (11%)
10)  Georgia (10%)

(This list is based on the gender ratio of countries’ total populations, based on data from The World Factbook. All countries listed have a male:female gender ratio under 1 (i.e. more females than males). A more comprehensive list can be found here. ‘Countries’ here are counted as being UN member states.)

There are also remarkable examples of gender imbalance in favour of the males. In the United Arab Emirates, for instance, there are over twice as many men as women. This is not due to something in the genes, however, but because many men move to the UAE because of their predominance in the construction industry. Ratios are also affected by the occurrence of selective abortions, such as in China, where bearing a son is highly favoured.

These variations offer good fodder for speculation, but the truth is that the populations of men and women are pretty much the same worldwide (and in Nottingham). So, to those disgruntled stag do organisers, we can only say: Estonia is nice this time of year.


By Michael McKenna

Article by Michael Mckenna

April 15, 2015

Mike is currently doing a PhD in biochemistry at the University of Manchester. When not talking about proteins, he watches an obscene amount of films and enjoys the odd pub quiz.

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