Older migrant workers pay to enter ‘temporary contracts’

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-19 20:18:02

An elderly migrant worker waits for hire at a labor market in Jinan, Shandong Province, on October 31. Photo: CFP

 "Marriage isn't only about love for us," a 59-year-old migrant worker in Beijing surnamed Tian, who has been single for his whole life, told the Global Times Wednesday.

Tian was refused by many woman, because he doesn't have a house, isn't paid well, and hasn't settled down. These are common difficulties faced by many middle-aged migrant workers seeking marriage.

China had 168 million migrant workers as of February, and their average monthly salary is 2,864 yuan ($450), Yang Zhiming, former director of the State Council Rural Migrant Workers Affairs Steering Group Office, said February. 

According to media reports, some migrant workers are turning to "contract marriages," literally paying women to stay with them for a short term.

Getting married: not easy

Born in Hubei Province, Tian worked in many cities before he came to Beijing four years ago, and he has no idea of where to settle down in the future. This "life on the road" is normal for many migrant workers.

Though many migrant workers said they don't mind being single, and their lives are good because no one badgers them, the longing for a spouse could be read from their words and eyes.

"Wanting to get married is one thing, but whether we can find someone is another," a 51-year-old garbage collector told the Global Times.

"We don't have the money to buy a house in the big cities where we worked, and it's usually hard to persuade others to live in my hometown. This is in addition to disagreements such as where to settle down after retirement and troubles brought by members of each other's family," said Tian.

"Usually matchmakers or friends will only introduce divorcees or widows to people at our age, but they usually have children, which complicates the marriage," said a fortysomething worker surnamed Zhang.

Matchmaking agencies are often shunned by migrant workers because of their low salaries. Not all migrant workers can afford or are willing to buy the service, and many matchmaking agencies reached by the Global Times said the group isn't among their "major clients."

A marriage advisor surnamed Hao at the Zhongming matchmaking agency affiliated to the Ministry of Civil Affairs said her agency usually charges migrant workers 3,000 yuan, while for other clients, the fee is no less than 10,000 yuan.

Relationship by contract

The Shaanxi-based newspaper Chinese Business View reported Tuesday that some older workers are resorting to a kind of temporary relationship called a "contract marriage."

Some of the contracts are made orally, and the main content includes details of the cohabitation and how much one party would pay the other each month.

"Normally one will pay from 1,500 yuan to 2,000 yuan to the other. Elderly people usually pay more," the newspaper quoted a matchmaker surnamed Zhou as saying.

Li Cunhou (pseudonym), a 56-year-old widower in Shaanxi, found a woman who shared his intention to look for a partner to live together instead of getting married, said the newspaper.

However, the arrangement didn't last long, because the woman left to take care of her newborn granddaughter in her hometown.

Zhou said that she had introduced a woman to a 57-year-old widower from Anhui Province, and the man paid the woman 100 yuan a day to accompany him at night.

"Such things do happen, and happen a lot, for everyone is practical and you can come and leave at your wish in such a relationship," a matchmaking agency employee told the Chinese Business View.

However, such relationships bring risks. In some cases, men have been cheated out of their savings.

The contract is not legally binding, and the relationship is not protected by present Chinese laws, Mo Shaoping, a law professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

However, such contracts should not be forbidden or interfered with if they don't hurt another person or go against social conventions and morality, added Mo.

Migrant workers reached by the Global Times showed little willingness to try a "contract marriage." It's natural that one partner will not take care of the other when illness or accidents occur, said Wang.

Newspaper headline: Unwanted for marriage

Posted in: Society

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