Males start to secure their marriages when they are as young as 10 years old in some villages in China as a soaring number of men in rural areas remain unable to find a wife, a worsening phenomenon unlikely to change within a short period of time, experts said Tuesday.
According to a survey released by China Youth Daily on Tuesday, there are at least nine single men of eligible marriage age in each of the 300 villages surveyed across China, and 80 percent of these men are forced to be bachelors for reasons other than physical disabilities.
In rural areas, men are forced to get married at an early age because of the lower number of women caused by China's continuing gender imbalance, according to the survey, jointly conducted by China Youth Daily, Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJU) and Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST).
"Rural couples start to save money for the bride price when their son is only 10 years old, and most boys seal their engagement at the age of 17 or 18," He Xuefeng, a professor at HUST, told the Global Times.
There were 290 million men born in China from 1980 to 2010, while only 254 million women were born during the same period. There are thus 36 million more men than women in the country, according to Li Shuzhuo, a professor at XJU, China Youth Daily reported.
China's gender ratio grew dangerously skewed starting in the 1980s. As a result, 10 to 15 percent of men born after that time period will remain unmarried. The figure may be higher in rural areas, the report added.
"The rural bachelor crisis is big in scale and lengthy in duration, and it will become a prominent problem that plagues China in the 21st century," Li was quoted as saying.
Liu Yanwu, a sociologist from Wuhan University, estimated that China currently has about 20 million men age 20 to 45 in rural villages that cannot find wives. Chinese demographers have previously predicted that the total number of men unable to find wives will reach 30 million by 2020.
More than two-thirds of these village bachelors are unable to find wives because they cannot afford the economic cost of marriage, which in some cases has risen to millions of yuan, Liu told the Global Times.
The glut of village bachelors could result in serious social consequences, such as a higher rate of suicide and an increase in crime, gambling and prostitution, Liu said.
Liu cited an example from Yuan village, Hunan Province, where a bachelor surnamed Zhang had an affair with a married woman, and after their affair was exposed, Zhang stabbed the woman's husband several times. He was later sentenced to one year in prison.