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Marriage rate declines to fresh low

By LI LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-01 01:43
A couple shows their marriage certificates at a civil affairs office on Valentine's Day in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, Feb 14, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

China's birthrate has been on a decline over the past few years, and now the number of people tying the proverbial knot is also heading lower.

Last year, the marriage rate nationwide dipped to 7.2 newly wedded couples per 1,000 people, dropping for the fifth consecutive year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The rate stood at 9.9 per 1,000 in 2013, and was 7.7 in 2017.

The declining figures come as the China is grappling with fewer newborns and a mounting number of divorces.

The birthrate was 10.94 per 1,000 on the Chinese mainland last year, down from 12.43 in 2017, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, couples deciding to end their marriages were rising rapidly, reaching 3.2 divorces per 1,000 people in 2017, said the Social Service Development Statistical Bulletin of 2017. The number was only 2.0 in 2010.

Experts say the declining marriage rate is due to a mixture of reasons, including an aging population and increasing economic pressures on those hoping to start a family.

Liu Yuanju, a researcher at Shanghai-based SIFL Institute, said the downturn in marriage rates is normal when considering the dwindling youth population, the main contributor to the trend.

"Due to the demographic structure, the marriage rate is expected to decrease further," he said.

Among young people of marriageable age, Liu said the longer periods of time people spend undergoing formal education have led to many to putting off marriage until later in life, and the soaring costs of housing and child rearing in cities have fueled a growing unwillingness to start families.

The researcher added that it is crucial for the government to allay financial pressures in a bid to promote marriage, because the rapidly declining desire to marry and have children could lead to social and economic problems down the road.

Diversified urban lifestyles and women's growing financial independence also seemed to be crucial contributors to the lower marriage rates.

A report released this month by Beike Zhaofang — a major housing trading platform — said women's purchasing power has been increasing, with 47.9 percent of its buyers being female. And among female buyers, 74.2 percent said they have not received financial assistance from their partners.

Almost 30 percent said they bought homes on their own, without even a helping hand from their parents, the report said.

A graduate student surnamed Xu in Tianjin, 24, who has opted to stay single so far, said women can now pursue furthering their educations, enter the workplace or start a business, which sets them apart from their counterparts 30 years ago who had little choice other than to wed when they came of age.

"The changes have greatly reduced the appeal of marriage and childbearing for women," she said.

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