China’s Marriage Rates Plummet for Seventh Year in a Row as Divorce Rates Peak; Younger Generations Balk at Marriage

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BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 20: A couple pose as they have their photos taken by a photographer before their upcoming wedding on May 20, 2021 outside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Many young couples in China mark the holiday 5/20 as one of China's Valentines Days. (Image: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Chinese officials have stated that the majority of young people in the “post-90s” generations are reluctant to get married amidst a high cost of living and skyrocketing divorce rates which is further exacerbating China’s looming population crisis. 

According to data recently released by China’s civil affairs department there are currently approximately 170 million “post-90s” people in China but no more than 10 million of them have registered for marriage. Experts believe this number should be upwards of 70 to 80 million. 

Data, released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicates that the number of Chinese people, getting married for the first time, has plummeted 41 percent from 23.8 million in 2013 to 13.9 million in 2019. Compounding the issue is a divorce rate which is being reported to be as high as 35 percent. 

Xinhua, a state-run media outlet, published figures last month showing that only 8.131 million marriages were registered across China last year, representing the seventh year in a row that marriage rates have declined.

Bi Xin, a sociologist in China who studies youth issues told Radio Free Asia, that “the concept of marriage among young people has fundamentally changed under the current situation, with young people treating marriage as a form of bondage in the first place.”

Bi cited the high cost of getting married and having children and unstable incomes as making it difficult for young Chinese people to take the plunge. 

“Officials acknowledge that ‘more and more young people of marriageable age do not want to get married,’ leading to an increasingly serious problem of an aging population,” Radio Free Asia reported

Currently, China’s working-age population — people between the ages of 15 and 59 — is in free fall. This age group has dropped from 70.1 percent of the population a decade ago to 63.3 percent today, according to AP.

The Chinese Labor Ministry, under previous policies, feared that the number of working-age people could fall to half the population by 2050. This would be disastrous for China’s economy.

While this coveted age group shrinks, the percentage of the population 65 years old and older is ballooning from 8.9 percent of the population a decade ago to 13.5 percent today, representing a direct threat to the ruling party’s economic and political ambitions.

Recently, Chinese authorities have attempted to manufacture a baby boom with sweeping new policies that include the provision for families to have upwards of three children. A policy that stands in stark contrast to its previously held policy of only one child. 

It will be increasingly difficult for China to address it’s population crisis without addressing declining marriage rates amongst it’s populace.