China's Birthrate Keeps Falling

NIKKEIAsia May 1st 2022 12:55 JST |Society|”Marriage phobia:More Chinese women opt for single life” “Unrelenting decline in weddings gives Xi Jinping administration headache”


By Tsukasa Hadano


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Image from straitstimes.com


Even though Beijing has put in place a cooling off period for divorces, which has halved the number of divorces, it’s not enough to stop the decline in urban marriages. Fewer urban marriages effectively means a lower birth rate “giving rise to an aging and shrinking population.”


Marriages in 2021 were down a full 40% from a decade earlier and at “7.63 million marriages in China…[it is]...the lowest figure since records began in 1986.” Easy to blame COVID but “there’s no sign of recovery in 2022.” “Marriages peaked at 13.46 million in 2013, the year Xi became president, but have been sliding ever since.”


A root cause is that urban professional women may have a child, benefit from grandparents for childcare and therefore feel “less material need to get married.” One commented “as I live without any economic problems, I have never felt the need for a husband.” Worse for the government she “has no plans for a second” child. This phobia against marriage is known as kong hun zu. There’s not such a breakdown in the less populated rural areas where “wives…help with family businesses and…raise children who will eventually take over.”


Surprisingly, even though the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) screens all TV programs, recently some shows, that are popular, “depicts marital conflict over having children and bringing them up…[that further]...deteriorates after their child is born.” The CCP has responded with a “warning against TV dramas that ‘sell anxiety.’” One viewer commented that real life is actually “more miserable.” It seems that “young people’s changing attitude toward marriage appears to be beyond official reach.”