Op-Ed Contributors

Don't bury love under concrete

By Huang Shuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-24 07:52
Large Medium Small

Is it necessary for a young man to have an apartment as a prerequisite for marriage?

In China, which is following its own unique development path, different from other developing countries in the world, becoming a husband is not easy. In the new "common sense" of China, housing trumps marriage and has become a major obstacle for young men hoping to start a family.

China may breed a new group of bachelors, men caught in the trap of unaffordable houses.

Since early 2009, the housing market has once again become a hot pot at boiling point. Even with subsidies and special government policies, home prices in China's first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are riding the crest of a rising wave. According to the "2010 China Marital Status Report" jointly released on Dec 15, 2010, by the China Association of Marriage and Family Studies, the Committee of Matchmaking Service Industries under the China Association of Social Workers, and China's leading marriage service provider Baihe.com, about 70 percent of women interviewed said that housing, a stable income and some savings were the main requirements for marriage.

From the report, we can see that housing is given top priority and that women see an apartment as essential to show that the man is responsible and can provide for his family.

Personality and morals lay outside the top three matrimonial requirements. Some women and their families hold the traditional position and take it for granted that the home issue should be the man's responsibility, which defies the contemporary independent spirit of women and gender equality.

These distorted marriage values reflect the fact that many women consider marriage another form of "social welfare".

Things may be different overseas. Realty has always been an issue for people in Europe, but governments there have come up with a series of tough measures to regulate property markets in order to deal with the problem properly and maintain sustainable societies, such as collecting property taxes: Owners, buyers and renters are all required to pay annual taxes.

In addition, social housing, similar to China's affordable housing, provided by European authorities as welfare for low- and middle-income groups, offer the less well-off their own piece of real estate. Such housing is usually modest-size apartments in tall buildings with 10 or more floors on the outskirts of town, whose main advantage is the low rents.

For many Americans, houses don't pose an obstacle to getting married. They often buy a house after the wedding, because more and more people are reconsidering their real estate worship, and going back to a more rational mode of consumption.

In Japan, renting is the custom for newly married young couples. Few young couples can afford to purchase property. Up to 67.1 percent of young couples choose to rent. Generally speaking, renters account for most people younger than 40 in Japan.

Young people should be free to enjoy being young, without the huge pressure of trying to buy property. Society should help create an environment for them to grow up. Don't let the poor bachelor group become a suffering layer of our society.

The author is a reporter with China Daily website.

(China Daily 12/24/2010 page8)