The number of marriage registrations in China saw a historic decline in 2022, reaching the lowest level since the Ministry of Civil Affairs began disclosing this data back in 1986. This plummet adds fuel to the fire of China’s demographic issues, putting even more stress on policymakers who must deal with an aging population and decreasing birth rates.
A Severe Dive in Marriage Registrations
In their most recent report, it was revealed that just 6.83 million couples signed up for marriage registrations last year—a far cry from the record high of 13.47 million registrations seen in 2013. Since that peak moment, there has been a drop of nearly half at 49.3 percent in marriage registrations. The numbers started dipping below the 10 million mark from 2019 onwards and kept slipping by almost a million yearly ever since; only about 7.64 million couples got hitched in 2021.
What Caused These Lower Numbers?
Various factors have contributed to a less-inclined-to-be-wed mindset:
- Fewer folks eligible for marriage: Between 1980-1989, we had an average annual birth rate of around 22.09 million people. That number took a hit as it dwindled down to just approximately 20.85 million during the years between1990-1999.
- Tardiness when tying the knot: Throughout the decade spanning from 2010-2020, Chinese women’s average age for first getting married rose from only about 24 years old all the way up to 27.95 years—that same sexy age of nearly 28!
- Economy woes: It’s no secret that many younger individuals face challenges when finding a job, which leads some couples to put off marriage amid worries about money.
Fascinatingly enough, societal pressures and shifting attitudes are also playing impactful roles in this decline. The so-called “lie flat” movement represents young Chinese people growing increasingly frustrated with the intense work culture and fierce competition they experience today.
The Government Attempts to Stop This Dive
Struggling against these plunging marriage rates, Chinese officials have attempted to implement easier methods for registering weddings, like extending interregional pilot programs across 21 cities (such as Beijing and Shanghai). In these locations, couples can get married without having to return home first.
Unfortunately, though, this step doesn’t really begin touching on foundational problems that cause reluctant marriages or couples to postpone parenthood. Delayed wedding dates and childbearing decisions are similarly tied up with how young Chinese people feel overwhelmed by the demands of working life and competitive stressors at play.
In one poll conducted last August by Xinmin Evening Daily newspaper, about 77% of surveyed college students shared that their decision to have children or not would be determined by finances.
Zooming in on Divorce Rates Today
Besides dwindling marriage registrations, noteworthy changes in divorce rates are also occurring. In 2022, roughly 2.1 million couples filed for a split—definitely fewer than the 4.7 million seen back in 2019, but still a significant figure nonetheless. The previous year actually had slightly more applications, with an estimated 2.14 million pairs deciding to part ways in 2021.
Economic Aftermath and Things to Think About Moving Forward
These ongoing declines in both wedding registration numbers and birthrates––not to mention China’s transforming social landscape–shape into being quite a complex demographic dilemma. Especially when discussing their labor force, it’s apparent that certain economic implications will arise as a direct result of these developments. Recent economic data points towards increasing struggles at hand, such as stunted trade accompanying factory activity decrease. Particularly disconcerting is the unemployed population (between ages 18-24) issittingaround20.4%byend of April.
A more intimate look unveils other causes for concern: not only are marriages less frequent, but even births are on the downturn. Rapidly approaching is potential major economic blowback from having fewer employees while the elderly community expands.
The Times, They Are A-Changin’
Beyond just lasting effects on the economy, demographic shifts also lead to transforming social values and attitudinal changes. Today’s progressive world landscape sees women with more diversified career opportunities and evolving gender roles and perspectives, which are contributing to a greater number of women who marry later and often view the marriage process differently.
On an even deeper level, these ongoing dilemmas reflect a growing disenchantment within China’s youth towards societal pressures they often feel smothered by. An example of this can be seen through the ”lie flat movement” that promotes disengagement from a cutthroat lifestyle mixed with the obsession with attaining certain material successes. This alludes to how many young citizens question whether or not the traditional pathways leading to accomplishment hold any value.
To sum it up, though the government is implementing ways to improve marriage rates in China, they’re definitely faced with quite an uphill battle due to the wide range of multifaceted issues at play here. Gaining a better understanding of what’s shaping Chinese culture today –from money stresses, navigating shifting societal attitudes, and even modern romantic relationships––will be essential to crafting relevant policies capable of directly addressing China’s increasingly diverse demographic, economic, and social future struggles.