China / Hot Issues

Govt seeks ways to reverse worrying rise in divorce rate

By He Dan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-31 07:16

Measures are being considered to tackle the rapidly increasing divorce rate, which sees nearly 10,000 marriages break up in China every day, a senior civil affairs official said.

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The measures being considered include enhanced counseling services as the number of couples seeking divorce has risen for 10 consecutive years, said Zhang Shifeng, head of the Department of Social Affairs at the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

There were 3.1 million divorces in 2012, a 133 percent increase over 2003, Zhang said.

Although national statistics for 2013 have yet to be released, Zhang predicted that they will maintain an upward trajectory.

Du Huanghai, a family attorney from Shanghai, said that his advice and help is sought mostly from people born in urban areas in the 1980s.

"Many city couples in their 20s or 30s lack the patience to adapt to each other or make the necessary compromises, so their marriages are often in a fragile state," he said.

In Beijing in 2013, about 164,000 couples married and 55,000 couples divorced. The capital experienced a 65 percent increase in divorce between 2011 and 2013.

Major cities such as Shanghai and Tianjin also experienced a similar trend.

Extramarital affairs, domestic violence and poor communication are the top reasons for divorce, Du said.

Gao Bo, a 28-year-old from Ningbo, Zhejiang province, divorced his wife in November after seven months.

"We just can't get along with each other, and we both blurted out the word 'divorce' after a silly quarrel over a trivial matter," he said.

The two were school sweethearts and were in a relationship for three years before tying the knot. "After we got married, we found it difficult to communicate with each other and love seemed to wear off as time went by."

The reasons for divorce are often varied and complicated, but couples seem to be acting more impulsively, Zhang said.

"This is a worrying phenomenon," he said, explaining that some people adopt a blitzkrieg strategy - get married quickly and get divorced quickly.

Neither are divorces always due to fading romance, he pointed out, as many couples opt to end their marriage for tax reasons, to purchase property or get greater compensation for demolition of property.

Some local governments have either established institutions or set up hotlines to provide counseling for couples, Zhang said.

The civil affairs department is considering introducing social workers to provide professional family consultation services in communities and other proactive measures to provide help and guidance to couples in distress.

"However, we will not impose any administrative measures to meddle in marriages," he stressed.

Sun Xiaomei, a professor specializing in women's studies at China Women's University, attributed the rising divorce rate to another factor - China's marriage laws.

These laws, she said, have undergone a series of revisions over the last half century, making it easier for couple to get divorced.

"In the past, people had to get permission from employers or neighborhood committees to untie the knot," she said.

"The All-China Women's Federation even organized teams of mediators to persuade couples who planned to split to calm down and stay together."

"We may have progressed from those days, but it is urgent to inform and educate the younger generation on the importance of family and teach them how to get on together," she said.

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