China’s population has been growing at a slow pace for decades and the administration is worried about the economic and social consequences. An information campaign designed to lower wedding costs and speed up childbirth has failed, in part because of the only child policy that has created a large gender gap
China is failing in one of its most important policy issues: the fight against the rapidly aging population, when its efforts to lower the cost of marriage and accelerate the birth rate are failing to raise the country’s wedding volume.
The most populous country in the world is in a demographic crisis as the administration tries to address the economic challenges involved in population contraction. Data from the Chinese Census published this year showed that the population has been growing at the slowest pace in decades.
Since the average family can not afford the costs of the marriage ceremony, the Ministry of Civil Affairs launched an information campaign in 29 cities across the country last April, which was intended to reduce the cost of the event.
“A decline in the volume of marriage will affect birth rates and consequently economic and social development,” warned Yang Zongtao, a senior official in the Ministry of Civil Affairs last year. “We hope our activities will create favorable conditions that will allow more people of the right age to enter the institution of marriage.”
However, the number of marriages has continued to decline for eight consecutive years and in the first three quarters of 2021 the number of new marriage certificates dropped to a 13-year low, and now stands at 5.9 million.
A study by the University of Southwest Jiaotong in Chengdu, conducted in five provinces, found that among rural couples the average value of engagement gifts, which is based on cash and housing and includes the bride’s dowry, has risen by 50% to 100 in the last seven years. % And stands at at least 300,000 yuan ($ 47,000). This amount is more than six times the annual household income in the country. The problem is getting worse, “said Wang Xiangyang, author of the Southwest Jiotong research.
Ningling, a central province and one of the areas defined by the Ministry of Civil Affairs as an “experimental area” for the new policy, has announced a recommended price of up to 30,000 yuan for engagement gifts, compared to the usual price young women and parents in the province, which stands at 100,000 yuan. The county has also launched hundreds of marriage councils, accompanied by local, respected and matchmaking officials, who have been tasked with persuading couples to adopt official policies.
“We keep telling young women and their parents that happiness has nothing to do with the number of engagement gifts they receive,” a Ningling official said.
One of the major challenges China is facing is the gender imbalance it has faced after decades of pursuing an only child policy, with the number of young men far exceeding the number of women of the same age. “When there are more young men than women, the scope for adopting a new policy is limited,” a Beijing government adviser said.
According to the adviser, China’s gender imbalance has not really improved since the 2010 census, which reported 2.2 million single men aged 25-34 and 1.2 million single women in the same age group. “We are not expecting a recovery in the marital situation when the gender imbalance is so great,” the counsel added.
Prefer to stay single
The situation has worsened because of the declining interest in marriage among Chinese women, with many of them choosing to marry later in life or stay single and focus on a career. A survey conducted last May among young people in marriage, a rural province in eastern China, by the local Bureau of Statistics, found that only 60% of women defined marriage as necessary, compared to 82% of men.
This is compared to some regional and national surveys conducted around 2010 in which more than 80% of women and more than 85% of men supported this definition. “As for the question of when and with whom to marry, I listen to myself, not to the government,” said Olivia Wang, a 35-year-old cleric.
Some Meningling men (who were interviewed for this article) also made it clear that they are not convinced that changing policy could change behavior patterns. “If I take official propaganda for granted, no woman will marry me,” said a 28-year-old man named Wang, who paid his father-in-law 99,999 yuan in cash and gold jewelry worth 50,000 yuan before his wedding in August.
“I’m glad I have a wife, but I can not rejoice that my parents had to drain their savings to help me achieve that goal.”