The men left on the shelf

By Chen Xiaoru Source:Global Times Published: 2011-11-14 8:18:00

Illustration: Cao Zhiyi

While everyone seems to talk about the phenomenon of shengnü, or "leftover" women, the plight of men in the same position, it appears, has been largely ignored.

And the prospect for many of these forlorn bachelors is bleak. According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics of China in 2007, the number of young men in China aged between 20 to 45 years exceeds that of their female counterparts by 18 million.

The situation is getting worse. According to the report, in 10 years' time it's estimated that there will be some 30 million young men unable to find a significant other.

However, the situation in Shanghai dating agencies tells a different story. According to a recent Chinese media report, the ratio of female members to male members in most dating clubs is about seven to three, in favor of women. Many people have used this statistic to suggest that the shortage of male members of these agencies indicates that Shanghai has a shortage of single men in general.

But I believe that the situation in such organizations is not representative of the whole picture. These agencies, which often charge annual membership fees of more than 10,000 yuan ($1,576), are only accessible to highly paid people, while excluding those singles, of both sexes, who survive on smaller budgets.

According to Ren Jianan, publicity director for, a leading dating website, there are only 100 young women (aged between 27 and 34) for every 162 young men in first-tier cities like Shanghai. The reason that people focus on leftover women, however, has more to do with the fact that many of these singles are leading highly successful careers and are financially independent.

According to research by the Shanghai Women's Federation, the number of female college students first surpassed male students in 2003, and the percentage of students in college who are male continues to drop every year.

So one inference that can be drawn from these two facts is that Shanghai doesn't have a shortage of single men, but perhaps a shortage of successful, marriageable men.

The so-called leftover women are mainly those who choose to be leftover because of the high expectations they have of potential spouses. Leftover men, however, are in this position because they have no other choices.

These men may be more psychologically vulnerable when, approaching middle age, they find themselves without a family, house, and a stable career. At the same time, there is also the possibility that violence and crime will increase because of the frustrations of lonely men.

There is no quick solution to the leftover men problem. What seems inevitable is that in the near future many of these Chinese women are going to have to lower their expectations when it comes to choosing a man.

Unfortunately, it seems that at the moment many women are finding it hard to change their mind-set and values.

At the very least, people should stop overplaying the whole leftover women phenomenon, and start devoting the same amount of attention to leftover men. Sadly, they are largely ignored because they are usually at the bottom of society.

Posted in: Viewpoint, TwoCents

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