Why finding a spouse in China is so hard

April 03, 2017 10:40
Gender imbalance, women’s educational attainment and career goals, as well as rising home prices are some of the factors behind China's growing population of singles. Photo: China Daily

China’s population of singles who are of marrying age (20-59) hit a new record of 200 million, according to a recent report.

The growing number of singles can be attributed to a number of factors, foremost of which is probably gender imbalance.

For singles who were born in 1980s, the male-female ratio stands at 136:100 while the gap is even worse at 206:100 for those born in the '70s.

Chinese parents' preference for a son, which stretches back to centuries, has resulted in a surplus of men.

Under the one-child policy, which was abolished just recently, this preference for sons, who parents believe would support them during their old age, led to widespread infanticides or abandonment of baby girls.

The latest figures show that for every 100 girls born in China, almost 120 boys are born.

Economic growth is also partly to be blamed. The experience of developed nations shows that the single population usually expands with the rise of the middle class. That’s exactly what we’ve seen in China.

In recent years, young Chinese find it increasingly difficult to afford a flat of their own as housing prices continue to surge. As a result, many of them choose to stay single.

Education also plays a role in China’s growing single population.

It’s shown that 31.7 percent of female Chinese are high school or college graduates, while only 27.7 percent of men have such educational attainment.

And since they have better education and higher earnings, not a few Chinese women decide to stay single if they cannot find a partner who can meet their minimum criteria.

Among women residing in big cities, those in Shenzhen have set the highest standards, requiring their spouse to have a monthly salary of about 16,000 yuan (US$2,324).

It just happens that Shenzhen also has the worst male-female ratio, at 230:100, as the technology hub has attracted an influx of IT specialists, most of them men.

Hong Kong is also faced with a similar challenge. Official data shows that 30.9 percent of the city’s residents above 15 are unmarried.

But the difference is Hong Kong has slightly more women than men in that age bracket.

Perhaps the government should facilitate more cross-border marriages between Hong Kong and the mainland.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 31

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist