China has recorded its lowest marriage rate in nearly two decades at a time when the country is already witnessing historically low birth rates.
Only some 8.1 million couples registered for marriages in 2020, a 12% drop from the previous year, according to figures released last month from China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs that caught online public attention Thursday. The marriage registration last year was the lowest since 2003 and only accounted for 60% of those in 2013, when such registrations saw a peak.
The declining marriage rate suggests changing attitudes toward matrimony among young Chinese who are increasingly favoring a no-strings-attached, independent lifestyle. According to a March survey by recruiting platform Zhaopin.com, marriage was “not a compulsory choice” for 64% of the female respondents, who added they didn’t plan to get hitched any time soon.
However, government-led research in Shanghai last year showed that men had a stronger desire to get married than women.
Apart from the drop in marriages last year, the number of birth rates also saw a 15% decline compared with the previous year, fizzling authorities’ hopes of a post-pandemic baby boom. However, only 3.7 million couples were granted divorces last year, almost 1 million fewer than in 2019.
To deter couples from separating, China enacted a controversial 30-day “cool-off period” this year, meaning couples will not be granted a divorce if one of them changes their mind during this period. Since the law went into effect on Jan. 1, there has been a 60% drop in divorces in the central city of Wuhan.
Meanwhile, local authorities have been doing their part to manage the crisis. A top official of the youth arm of the Communist Party of China said in 2017 that he wanted to step in to solve declining marriages among young people, while the arm’s branch in the eastern Zhejiang province introduced a “Marriage and Dating Division” and an online dating site to help young singles find prospective life partners.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: People Visual)