First marriages plummet by 41% in 6 years
Published: Dec 29, 2020 10:18 PM

Deng Lingling (L) and Deng Junwei kiss while displaying their marriage certificates in front of the marriage registration office of the Civil Affairs Bureau of Nanshan District in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, Feb. 14, 2020. (Xinhua/Mao Siqian)

Fewer young Chinese have been willing to get married in recent years, with first marriages seeing a sharp decline of 41.4 percent between 2013 and 2019, official statistics showed.

The number of people getting married for the first time dropped from 23.86 million in 2013 to 13.99 million in 2019, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The fall is largely due to the decline in newborn babies in the early 1990s, who now have come into marriage age, said demographer Zhou Haiwang, deputy director of the Institute of Population and Development under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. 

Statistics show that China's birth rate fell from 21.06 to 17.12 newborns per 1,000 people from 1990 to 1995.

Apart from the population issue, marriage itself is less attractive to young Chinese people today, as they are more independent, both financially and mentally, and more self-centered than previous generations, observers said.

"I want to carry on my responsibilities for my parents by myself, instead of relying on others. And I don't want to bear more from another family either," Xing Jia, a 28-year-old Shanghai resident, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Xing and her boyfriend, who have maintained a relationship for over three years, have no plans to tie the knot yet.

"Neither of us want to get married. This state is more controllable for us, and we have our own space," Xing said.

The financial pressure of marriage is also a big obstacle for young Chinese people, especially males. 

A 30-something man surnamed Han told the Global Times that in Shanghai, where he works and lives, marrying a woman could cost him at least 450,000 yuan ($68,940), with the expenditure on house decoration, a wedding banquet and wedding rings. Han's month salary is around 13,000 yuan after tax, and he spends most of it on mortgage payments.

"I have a girlfriend, but I'm afraid I can't afford to marry her," he sighed.

The number of couples registering for marriage has been decreasing since 2013, when the number reached a peak level of 13.47 million. In 2019, only 9.27 million couples registered for marriage, the lowest level in ten years.

However, it is worth noting that remarriages are more common now in China, where the traditional concept of sticking to one marriage is no longer quite so binding.

In 1985, only 504,800 people in China remarried. The number doubled in 2010 and in 2019, it grew by nine times to 4.56 million, statistics show.

Interestingly, China's high remarriage rate is largely driven by its real estate market, Zhou noted.

Many Chinese cities have issued policies to regulate local overheated housing markets in the past decade. For instance, in 2016, Shanghai increased the down payment for families' second homes from 40 percent to up to 70 percent.

"As a result, numerous couples chose to divorce, and then remarried after buying a house in the name of either one as a single person," Zhou told the Global Times Tuesday.

Moreover, young people now have a more open view of marriage than their conservative parents, observers noted. In the previous generations, many people believed that one should stick to a single marriage, and divorce or remarriage was considered shameful.

"My parents and relatives were strongly opposed to my getting a divorce as they thought it was shameful, but I insisted," Jiao Mi, a resident in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, told the Global Times.

Jiao divorced her first husband due to domestic violence but she married another man six years later. "Whether you are happy or not is not necessarily related to how many times you got married. I don't think it is a shameful thing as I am much happier than before," she said.