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I Do… Not: Marriage Registrations Hit Historic Low in China

“The thought of bringing a baby into this world full of grueling competition and without the means to provide is horrifying”

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Mar 31, 2022 2 mins read

(Unsurprising) newsflash: Research shows that young people in China care less about marriage registration with each passing year. According to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the number of new marriages hit a historic low in 2021, with just 7.63 million couples putting pen to paper and saying “I do.”

The figures had been decreasing since 2013, and the last record low was in 1986.

In related news, the hashtag ‘Why marriage registrations hit their lowest in 36 years’ (#结婚登记数为何创36年新低#) recently went viral on Weibo and amassed 190 million views.

Most commenters have shown little to no surprise over the sharp decline in marriage registrations, blaming today’s “hostile environment as a good reason not to get hitched in contemporary Chinese society.

“Job security is worsening with rising living expenses, especially soaring housing prices. It’s already not easy to feed oneself, let alone entertain the idea of founding a family,” wrote one netizen.

Others have laid out the meager benefits of marriage and childbirth for women in the current marital system.

“The risk and responsibility of childbearing fall solely on women. With the extra burden of domestic chores, plus loss of competitiveness in the workplace, complicated divorce procedures in case our male partners cheat… What exactly do women get out of marriage?” questioned a Weibo user.

Unsurprisingly, 2021 also saw China’s birth rate hit its lowest point since 1949, not to mention the lowest net population growth in 60 years, reported the National Bureau of Statistics.

Despite Chinese authorities relaxing childbirth restrictions in the country, many young adults in China are choosing not to have kids

Despite Chinese authorities relaxing childbirth restrictions in the country, many young adults in China are choosing not to have kids

In China, bearing children out of wedlock is rare, and women who do so are unprotected by the law. This, higher education levels, self-actualization, and childrearing costs are some of the reasons behind China’s plummeting birth rates despite the country’s relaxed family planning policies.

In 2019, the average total cost of raising a child (until they reach adulthood) in China was around 485,000 RMB (more than 76,000 USD) — seven times the country’s per capita GDP. The cost of rearing a kid remains much lower in countries such as the US, Japan, and France. Only Korea, which saw a 0.84 birth rate in 2020 — the lowest globally — is more expensive than China in this regard.

“Why would I be willing to sacrifice my current quality of life for the sake of marriage?” questions Linda Wang, a 30-year-old working in financial services in Shanghai. “It is hard to find someone with my level of revenue or higher to partner with. And those who earn more than me have zero time for a relationship.”

This month, Beijing issued new campaigns to tackle the country’s notorious 996 overtime work culture and the financial burden of having a third child.

But the initiatives received a lukewarm reception at best.

“A third child? I earn 12,000 RMB (roughly 1,900 USD) a month working 10 hours a day, living in a 420-square-foot flat, which I share with another girl,” laments Caro Jiang, a 30-year-old researcher at an NGO in Beijing. “I’ve already completely abandoned the idea of ever having a child or a family. The thought of bringing a baby into this world full of grueling competition and without the means to provide is horrifying.”

To live a higher quality of life solo or toil harder for companionship and children? This seems to be the modern conundrum faced by Chinese people today.

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All images via Depositphotos

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