"The problem is more serious in rural areas due to the lack of a social security system there," he was quoted as saying on Monday.

"Aging farmers have to rely on their offspring."

Wang said the surplus of 24 million men will make it more difficult for men with low-income to find wives and will lead to a rise in the age gap between spouses.

Population control

China adopted its family-planning policy in the late 1970s to curb a population explosion, with the plan basically limiting families to one child while encouraging late marriages and childbearing.

Millions of Chinese men may be unable to find wives according to the study [GALLO/GETTY]
The shift towards more male births started in the 1980s, after the introduction of the 'One-Child' policy, and ultrasound scanning to determine a baby's sex.

At that time, for every 100 girls born, up to 107 boys were born. By the 1990s, that number rose to 111 male births for every 100 female births, and another decade later the ratio grew to 116 boys to every 100 girls.

Now, in rural areas where the problem is more acute, as many as 130 boys are born for every 100 girls.

Wang Yuesheng, another population researcher at the academy, warned that males in poverty-stricken areas would be forced to accept late marriage or remain single for their entire lives, which may "cause a break in family lines".

"The chance of getting married will be rare if a man is more than 40 years old in the countryside," he told the Global Times.

"They will be more dependent on social security as they age and have fewer household resources to rely on."

The Global Times, citing China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, said abductions and trafficking of women and infants had become "rampant" in areas with a higher number of men.

It said that those areas also faced problems of illegal marriages and forced prostitution.