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Women master men... and their wallets
By Yu Zhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-23 22:27

Chinese women have strong say in household purchases, though it's usually the men who foot the bill, a recent survey indicates.

Synovate, affiliated with the British group Aegis, polled almost 4,000 women in nine countries such as China, the United States and Japan last month about their attitudes towards financial matters.

In China, 314 women aged 15-64 were interviewed.

Almost nine out of 10 Chinese married women or those living with a partner claimed to have at least an equal say in big-ticket purchases such as property and cars, third behind the United Kingdom and France.

Although 74 per cent of respondents said their partners earned more, 75 per cent disagreed that whoever holds the money holds the power in the relationship.

Apart from having unrestricted access to their men's wallet, 77 per cent of Chinese women said they can pretty much afford what they want without asking for money from their partners, second behind UK women.

Hong Yuanyuan, a China Network Communications Group Corp staffer, said she can decide on all small purchases, and, as for big items, she "decides all the details after settling on basic principles with her husband."

Hong's husband Zhang Ying, who earns double what Hong does and can afford most purchases, attributes the situation to a "mutual respect" in the family relationship.

"I don't care about details. It seems better not to be fussy about whatever she has bought," said he.

The findings also show that half of Chinese respondents subscribe to the philosophy that "my partner's money is my money, my money is mine."

Larry Wu, director of Synovate China, explained: "The money earned by women is a bonus to them. It is still part of the family wealth, but Chinese women tend to keep part of that money as their own savings."

He said the survey reflects a deeper involvement of Chinese women in family financial issues compared to just a decade ago.

And Wang Zhenyu, an expert in family issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the survey results are similar to those she found eight years ago, which indicated that Chinese women enjoy a high employment rate and a considerably high-degree of financial independence.

Wu said Chinese women are very different from those in the United States where equal status is more a norm, while Japanese and Saudi Arabian women are held to a lesser status, often not working and relying heavily on men financially.

The survey showed that 37 per cent of Japanese respondents believe getting married means giving up their financial freedom, second after their Saudi Arabian counterparts.

And 38 per cent of the surveyed Japanese women conceal money in a slush fund from their partners, the highest percentage among all the countries polled.

"The truth is that once a woman gets married and especially when she has children, it is very difficult to continue working," commented Synovate Japan President Rika Fujiki.

Like Chinese women, Japanese wives are also within their right to control the household, and their secret bank accounts contain savings derived from daily household expenditures.

Fujiki said situation mirrors that of China, where the woman holds the bank card and control of her husband's salary.

"If she wants to buy a handbag, she generates money over a few months, perhaps by saving on food or other bills,"he said.

"Then she tells her husband a bag she's wanted for years is now on sale. It's important to note that she is not asking for permission to buy the bag, but is warning him that she's about to buy it."

Although six out of 10 women disagree that men are more financially savvy, the findings indicate that the fairer sex still has a long way to go in sorting out their financial affairs.

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