End to late marriage holidays upsets young couples

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-1-20 16:57:33

Cindy Sun and her fiance had to reconsider their honeymoon plans after they heard that a policy giving extra leave to couples choosing to marry later was set to be abolished.

Sun, 29, a civil servant in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, had planned to tie the knot in May this year.

"Although Jiangsu has yet to implement regulations to support the amended Family Planning Law, we are still worried about whether we will miss out on the 10 extra days holiday," said Sun.

The legal age for marriage in China is 22 for men and 20 for women. While all newlyweds are granted three days of holiday, the previous law gave men over the age of 25 and women over 23 additional eave as a bonus for marrying later.

Sun and her fiance are among the many Chinese couples likely to miss out on the extra holiday after changes to the Family Planning Law came into effect on Jan. 1. Regional regulations often lag behind national changes.

The exact number of days given to those that marry later varies from province to province. In Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, for example, it was seven days.

The extra marriage leave was initiated to encourage people to marry and raise children later to ease overpopulation. With China abolishing its one-child policy and encouraging couples to have two children to offset an aging population, the law was amended and late marriage leave was eliminated.

As the average age that Chinese marry is now around 25, the policy was also abandoned because late marriages are no longer uncommon.

"The extra leave is quite important to us because the normal three-day holiday will only be enough for our wedding," said Sun.

Some couples acted much earlier than Sun. The Chaoyang office of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs reported that it saw an unusual spike in registration from the usual 70 couples to around 300 on the last day of 2015. Similar situations occurred in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Some social media users on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, joked the late marriage leave would motivate them to get married.

The anxiety over the end of the late marriage leave reflects a need to review the statutory annual holidays, as people are very cautious about their "precious" holidays, according to an editorial in Beijing News.

"Ending extra holidays for late marriage does not necessarily mean less leave as it takes time for local authorities to issue policies according to new or amended laws," said Sun Wenjie, a lawyer with Ling Yun Law Firm.

Gan Huatian, a professor from West China Hospital in Sichuan Province said that there should be other incentives for married couples to encourage them to procreate, such as more maternity leave.

In fact, the amended law does extended maternity leave.

Legislators in Guangdong province were the first to pass new regional regulations on family planning, giving new mothers 30 extra days for maternity leave in addition to the current 98 days. Spouses were also given 15 days paternal leave, five more days than before.

"It is necessary to encourage couple to have their first child earlier so that there is time for another child," Gan says.

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