THE gender divide known as the battle of the sexes could lead to real bloodshed in the future, a leading academic is to claim in an Edinburgh lecture this week.

Paul Seabright, a professor of Economics at the University of Toulouse, believes the abortion of female foetuses by families in China may produce a section of men who become violent after being left on the shelf.

Seabright said: "Women taking control over their fertility is largely a positive thing, but one thing that is happening in China and India is parents deciding selectively to abort female foetuses.

"In the next 30 years the surplus of essentially unmarriagable males are going to be the ones at the bottom of the heap. They'll have little education, they'll have poor economic prospects and they'll be sexually frustrated and violent.

"I'd like to make a small bet that in 30 years time there will be more terrorist incidents in China than probably almost anywhere else, because of increased competition."

Seabright is delivering the Royal Economic Society's annual public lecture in Edinburgh on Thursday on the biology and economics of the sex war.

He will also be discussing how men and women's relationships have evolved through the ages. According to Seabright, men and women have very different ways of creating alliances.

He explained: "One of the striking things even among the great apes is males and females go about setting up coalition behaviours differently.

"Males form much larger and opportunistic coalitions and strategic coalitions. They are much more willing to forgive their enemies and much more willing to betray their friends."

Seabright believes this might account for the dominance of men in the workplace. He added: "Many women don't get to the shortlist at all because very often the way people recruit - whether it is through headhunters, or through more informal processes in getting a list of candidates - is they will call around people in their networks who tend to be men.

"The way people get on is through their networks and the female networks are less good than the males'."

The lecture on Thursday takes place at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, with free tickets available by emailing economics. res. events@ed. ac. uk

rachelle. money@sundayherald. com