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Shanghai wives hold the purse strings

By XIE YU in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-07 03:13

Shanghai wives have more power in managing their family wealth, research has found.

Almost 42 percent of families in China have their assets managed by both husbands and wives. However, wives in Shanghai seem to have a stronger say in family finances.

More than 40 percent of families in Shanghai have their family wealth managed by wives, which is higher than the country's average of 38.4 percent, according to Horizon Research Consultancy Group.

The global market research company polled 2,346 women and 270 men online nationwide between October and January. It showed women now have a leading position in managing family income.

Married women have more responsibilities in family life, the report said.

"The point of controlling family income is to maintain stability, as women tend to feel insecure after being married, like worrying about their husbands having affairs," said a 28-year-old woman, who works for a foreign-funded IT company in Dalian, Liaoning province. She refused to give her name.

She said she and her husband share a bank account. They deposit their salaries into the account every month and discuss how to use it together.

Though Shanghai women are traditionally thought of as having a stronger role than their husbands in family finances, Chen Xiaoshu, 27, a Shanghai book editor, has a different idea.

"It's always my father who takes care of the family savings and spending. He is an accountant, and it works well. My parents get along well. So I don't think a stable marriage has anything to do with money," she said.

But some sociologists do not agree with the survey's results.

"We should be careful when analyzing online surveys, as the participants are limited to those who have access to the Internet," said Xue Yali, an assistant researcher from the Family Education Research Center under Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"On the other hand, managing money does not mean women are enjoying higher positions at home, as it can be very trivial matters like paying for power and gas," she noted.

"The key point is who does the decision-making in the family," she added.

Tony Wang, who works in wealth management in a foreign commercial bank in Shanghai, said he has more female clients than male. Wang is a Chinese but asked to use his English name to protect his privacy.

"I found more women have the power to allocate their wealth, but they tend to be cautious, and prefer products with small risks and small returns. Generally speaking, men are bolder in making investment decisions," he said.

Xue pointed out that for a traditional Chinese family it is very important that the women, especially housewives, control the money.

As the job market favors men, a woman is very likely to lose everything if her marriage fails. But as women become more independent with improved education and better pay, controlling family wealth is less important to them, she added.

According to research published last month by dating website Jiayuan, women are becoming more financially independent. Thirty-nine percent of women refuse to become housewives after getting married, and 98 percent said they would not ask their husbands to hand over their wages.

The survey of Horizon Research also found that women are earning more nowadays. More than 36 percent of women in cities have a higher income than their husbands.

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