The Chinese government is growing increasingly worried as statistics reveal that fewer Chinese millennials are opting to tie the knot.
Data by China’s National Bureau of Statistics shows that between 2013 to 2019, the number of first-time marriages in China dropped by 41%, from 23.8-million to 13.9-million. The country’s marriage rate plummeted to 6.6 per 1,000 people in 2019, the lowest drop China has experienced in 14 years.
This decline is down to a number of reasons, although many sociologists focus on the decades of policies aimed at controlling the population, like the one-child policy, which meant that there are fewer young people in China that can actually get married.
Despite this policy being dropped in 2016, birth rates are still lower than usual. A preference for sons has also resulted in a skewed sex ratio at birth, especially in rural areas. More men than women mean that heterosexual men will struggle to find suitable brides.
Millennial women are also more educated and economically dependent than their elders, making marriage as a means of survival less necessary.
The Chinese government introduced a nine-year compulsory education program in the 1990s and expanded higher education to boost university enrollments in the late 90s. This has resulted in women outnumbering men in higher education programs.
As a result, many Chinese millennials view marriage as a personal choice rather than an obligation.
“With increased education, women gained economic independence, so marriage is no longer a necessity for women as it was in the past,” Wei-Jun Jean Yeung, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore told CNN. “Women now want to pursue self-development and a career for themselves before they get married.”
The increased social and economic status of women has also made it harder for them to find partners of equal or higher stature, in accordance with Chinese tradition of ‘marrying up’.
While there have been many advances in education, cultural and gender norms still largely remain in China, which affects a woman’s role in marriage.
“The whole package of marriage is too hard. It’s not just marrying someone, it’s to marry the in-laws, take care of children — there are a lot of responsibilities that come with marriage,” Yeung said.
Women are also more hesitant to marry and start families as they are concerned with juggling a career and family life with all its demands.
This marriage decline may severely distress economic and social stability in the country, as marriage and reproduction are so closely related. As a result, the Chinese government is trying to mitigate a potential population crisis by introducing policies like the two-child policy, extended maternity leave and cash subsidies for those with two kids, and propaganda campaigns aimed at encouraging couples to have more children, reports CNN.