After more than 50 years of its one-child policy, the gender imbalance in China is one of the largest in the world. According to official statistics, China’s population stood at 1.36 billion at the end of last year, of which 700 million were men and 667 million were women, leaving an imbalance of some 33 million more men than women.
Parents in China still expect their children to marry young. However, gender imbalances, plus increasing materialism and the pressures of Chinese life, have made it hard for young men to find a partner. Consequently, many are reluctant to upset their parents by confronting them and would rather pretend to conform.
In order to ease the tension between sons and their parents, the new trend is for young men to rent a girlfriend to take home for the holidays. In the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, rental requests for girlfriends climb.
“It’s almost time for Chinese New Year, to help out those who don’t have a partner yet, and avoid pressure from the family, we recommend our services!”
Mr. Chen from Jiangsu is one of those who planned to rent a girlfriend to take home for Chinese New Year to please his parents. He responded to an ad on the website Beidu and paid $273 a day for 3-5 days.
Many match-making businesses are providing similar services, with a price that varies depending on the services needed. Meeting the parents costs just $40, while spending the night can be as high as $145-$436.
Renting a girlfriend can be hazardous
The legal profession has received many complaints about incidents that have occurred from this dubious practice. Mr. Wu paid $436 to a woman and brought her home to meet his parents.
His mother gifted her $145 and an emerald jade pendant that was a family heirloom. Mr. Wu asked that the money and the pendant to be returned to his family, but the woman refused.
A man from Fujian hired a women to meet his parents in 2014. His mother gave her $2,910. Once again, the woman refused to return the money after the visit. A man from Guangzhou hired a women to meet his family in January 2016, but she disappeared after he paid her the money and he never heard from her again.
Despite such potential drawbacks, the phenomenon has become so well established in China that it has spawned films such as Contract Lover and a hit TV drama, Renting a Girlfriend to Return Home for New Year.
The high expectations of parents and societal pressures have left many young people desperate in China when it comes to relationships. And this is only one symptom of the serious social problems caused by the country’s gender imbalance.
Translated by Yi Ming