Low marriage rate sparks worries over declining population

By Li Qiao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/28 18:03:40

Young people from Yangzhou in East China's Jiangsu Province take part in group dating activities on March 6. Photo: VCG

Newly released figures showing China's marriage rate at 7.2 per thousand in 2018, the lowest since 2013, have sparked public discussion over the reasons why more Chinese are staying single as well as worries on how to deal with the declining population.

Of all the cities in China, Shanghai had the lowest marriage rate - 4.4 per thousand in 2018, while the number in East China's Zhejiang Province was 5.9 per thousand. The national marriage rate saw a constant decline from 9.9 per thousand in 2013 to 7.2 per thousand in 2018, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Civil Affairs recently. 

The China Statistical Yearbook 2018 shows that there were around 240 million single people in China, as the number of unmarried people above the age of 15 totaled 215 million in 2017, while the number of divorced people reached 23 million.

The statistics sparked discussions on Chinese social media, with experts and netizens sharing their opinions on why more Chinese people, especially the young, are deciding not to get married.

Freedom to choose

According to an online poll launched by the People's Daily, "not meeting the right people" was listed as the top reason why young people are staying single, with 29.5 percent of the 33,330 respondents choosing this reason. 

Other reasons include "being unable to share the family burden" (23.4 percent), "enjoying single life" (16.5 percent), "living an unstable life" (12.3 percent), "too much work pressure" (8.8 percent) and "pursuing academic development."

Gao, 27, who is studying for her doctoral degree in science and engineering at a university in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, attributed her single status to her belief that academic research is more important than a relationship while she is still a student.

Gao says her tutor constantly encourages her to get a boyfriend to help relieve the pressure of her studies, but she enjoys single life and finds it fulfilling - spending her time watching movies, going to her favorite restaurants and traveling alone. 

She says she is able to arrange everything herself without taking anyone else's preferences or schedule into account.

Despite pressure from her parents, Gao insists on making her own decisions about her life. "If I have to get married around the age of 25 as most people do, do I have to commit suicide when I reach the average age of death?" she asked.

"I'd definitely like a genuine relationship, but only when I meet my Mr Right. Being a single mother would also be a possibility for me if I could be sure my kid won't be excluded by society," said Gao. 

She insists that marriage should not be a compromise, but an independent choice to make one's life better.

Wang Zhuo, a 33-year-old man who works in Beijing, has been single for four years. Unlike Gao, job uncertainty and a low income limit his capacity to find a girlfriend.

"Due to both my job situation and low income, as well as the uncertainty of my future, I daren't make an emotional commitment to another person," Wang Zhuo told the Global Times.

An online survey conducted among 140 million members of Zhenai.com, China's largest matchmaking site, concluded that the high cost of living represents the greatest source of financial pressure for single people, followed by difficulties in buying a home.

Li Jianmin, a professor at the Institute of Population and Development at Nankai University, told the Global Times that "if we examine the long-term development of societal modernization, it is inevitable that the single population will increase and the marriage rate will fall." 

The development and spread of higher education have pushed back the average marriage age. Society is also becoming more tolerant of single people, Li said. 

However, society is also concerned about the low marriage rate and the population decline that follows, Li explained. 

China's population will peak at 1.442 billion in 2029, experiencing continuous negative growth from 2030, and going down to 1.364 billion in 2050, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Green Book of Population and Labor 2019.

"Due to contemporary trends, China's marriage and fertility rates will continue to fall. Marriage ages have been consistently increasing, while willingness to marry has been decreasing, along with the willingness to have children," Pan Jianlei, a professor at the Beijing Municipal Party Committee School, told 21 jingji.com on March 18.

"China may loosen the legal and moral constraints on childbearing out of wedlock. Children born out of wedlock deserve the same social welfare and non-discriminatory growth environment as children whose parents are married," Li said, adding that "this may increase the population to some extent."
Newspaper headline: Singled out

Posted in: SOCIETY

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