Over the past six years, the marriage rate, the ratio of registered marriages to the total population in a year, has been dropping. For example, only 72 couples out of every 10,000 people in China got married last year, the lowest marriage rate since 2013. Simultaneously, the divorce rate has been rising steadily since 2002, reaching 0.315 percent in 2017. What are the factors behind the falling marriage rate and the rising divorce rate, and what should we do about it? Two experts will share their views on the issue.
Rising cost leads to low marriage rate
The decline in the marriage rate is closely related to the rising cost of getting married, especially the staggeringly high housing prices in some big cities and the increasing betrothal money a bridegroom has to give to the bride's parents. Marriage has become an economic issue as much as a social issue.
The marriage rate is likely to further reduce in the coming decades due to young people's rapidly changing lifestyle and views on marriage. Under such circumstances, the government should consider according recognition to children born out of wedlock.
The decision to get married is a personal choice. China has made remarkable progress in this regard with more and more people becoming appreciative of different lifestyles and personal choices. But Chinese parents in some regions still pester their children to get married. Perhaps the building of a more inclusive and open society would allow people to better understand singles and respect them.
Li Jianmin, a professor of demography at the Institute of Population and Development, Nankai University
Respect youths' choice of lifestyle
The falling marriage rate and rising divorce rate in China reflect a global trend. For instance, in almost all OECD countries, the marriage rate has declined over the past few decades, according to an OECD report. And global experience shows socioeconomic development leads to a fall in the marriage and fertility rates.
The diversified development of society and the popularity of the internet have also contributed to the falling marriage rate in China. With society becoming more inclusive and open, marriage is no longer the only way a woman can gain social status and success. This, to a large extent, has prompted a growing number of women to opt for a late marriage, or not marrying at all.
Besides, the internet has had a big impact on people's interpersonal relations, marriage included.
With more time and emotions consumed on the internet, people's need for interpersonal attachment and real-life interactions are reduced.
Moreover, the age of first marriage has advanced because youths are dedicating more years to higher education. Studies show that the declining marriage rate in OECD countries has been accompanied by the increasing average age of those getting married.
And that more people are choosing to stay single or seek divorce shows that citizens today enjoy more freedom than before. So, for the sake of building a more inclusive and harmonious society, the government should provide more support for singles and divorcees, as they might be financially, socially or mentally more vulnerable compared with other members of society.
The declining marriage rate should not sound the alarm. But Chinese parents who pester their children to get married deserve attention, as they have to be made to realize that their children have the right to choose their own lifestyle.
And those parents who are keen on getting their children married should instead help create more opportunities and space for their children to build their lives first－and look for a life partner.
Ge Daoshun, a research fellow at the National Institute of Social Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
(Source: China Daily)
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