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“The Problem Is Getting Worse” – China Sees New Marriages Fall To Lowest Level In 13 Years

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

Back in April, we reported that the Chinese government had just documented its first decline in its massive population since the Communists seized power in 1949, raising fears about systemic deflation. Could China, lauded as the world's rising super power, fall victim to "Japanification" before the 100th anniversary of the CCP seizing power in 2049?

The possibility is clearly a cause for consternation among the most senior CCP officials, including President Xi himself.

Beijing has only recently eased its restrictions on family size, allowing couples to have up to three kids. But it will likely take decades for these changes to make a difference. In the mean time, Chinese couples are facing some of the same obstacles to marriage and starting a family that young people in the US are also complaining about.

According to the FT, efforts to lower the cost of marriage and child birth have largely failed to encourage more marriages in the rapidly-aging Asian society. Back in April, the Ministry of Civil Affairs launched an "education drive" to try and make marriage more affordable in 29 cities, as the cost of the ceremony has risen beyond the reach of average families. Instead of boosting the marriage rate, the rate of Chinese weddings fell to a 13-year low, according to the rate of new marriage licenses. Issuance of new licenses fell to 5.9MM during the first three quarters of 2021, marking the lowest level in 13 years. Rates of marriage license issuance has fallen for the past 8 years now.

And authorities aren't ignorant of what the demographic impact will be since out-of-wedlock childbirth in China is much less common than it is in the US.

"A drop in marriage will affect birth rates and in turn economic and social development," said Yang Zongtao, a senior official at the MCA last year. “We are hoping to…actively create favourable conditions for more people of suitable ages to walk into marriage."

One study carried out by researchers at Chengdu-based Southwest Jiatong University in five provinces found the average cost of a dowry and engagement gifts, including the bribe's dowry (items given range from cash to housing) had exploded over the past 7 years by between 50% to 100% to at least 300K RMB ($47K). That's more than 6x the annual household income.

"The problem is getting worse and worse," said Wang Xiangyang, an author of the Southwest Jiaotong study.

In many ways, the CCP created this problem with decades of its one-child policy. The policy has led to major imbalances in the population of men vs. the population of women. The imbalance has barely improved since the 2010 census, despite the fact that Beijing first abolished the policy more than 5 years ago. Right now, there are 2.2M single men aged 25-34 and only 1.2MM single women in the same age group, according to official data.

But there's little Beijing can do now, aside from "importing" women from poorer nations en masse. Men are effectively encouraged to find wives abroad since there simply aren't enough age-appropriate women at home.

"The space for new policy is limited when you have more young men than women," said a Beijing-based government adviser. "It is inevitable that a lot of men will remain single in their lifetime."

[...]

"We are not going to see a recovery in marriage when gender imbalance is so big," the adviser added.

In addition to the "education drive" we noted above, the central government has also ordered the creation of hundreds of marriage councils involving local officials, dignitaries and matchmakers to persuade couples to marry and follow the official line.

As for the expectations surrounding dowries, one anonymous CCP official told the FT that "we keep telling young women and their parents that happiness has nothing to do with how many engagement gifts they receive."

But at least one young, recently-married man told the FT that the propaganda encouraging marriage likely won't be accepted by the Chinese people.

"No woman will marry me if I take the official propaganda for granted," said a 28-year-old man surnamed Wang, who paid his in-laws Rmb99,999 in cash and Rmb50,000 worth of gold jewellery before his August wedding.

"I am happy to have a wife, but not so about my parents having to empty their savings to help me achieve that goal."

Ultimately, the biggest hurdle for Beijing is similar to the hurdles facing the US: fewer women see marriage as a necessity, and a growing share of those who do want to settle down are waiting longer, leaving them less time to build a family. One survey conducted in May of young adults in Lishui, a rural county in eastern China, found that 60% of female respondents considered marriage necessary, compared with 82% for men.


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