China’s marriage rate slumps to lowest since 1980

New data released by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs reveals the country’s marriage rate has dropped to its lowest since 1980.

In 2022, 6.83 million couples registered for marriage, the lowest marriage rate recorded since 1980 when 7.2 million couples got married. Marriages have been on the decline for the last 9 years, peaking in 2013 with 13.4 million couples. The figure was likely pushed lower last year by the impact of pandemic control measures, which were at their most severe and wide-reaching in China in 2022.

Demographic factors also play a role as China’s ageing population means there are fewer young people of typical first marriage age. Higher standards of living and changing social attitudes also mean Chinese couples are getting married later in life, with the average age of first marriage rising from 24 and 25 (for women and men respectively) in 2010 to 28 and 29 in 2020.

Some young Chinese increasingly don’t subscribe to the notion that marriage is an essential part of life, with some urbanites even joining “single’s support groups” for people not planning on ever getting married.

Marriage decline is a major problem in a country where having children out of wedlock is far from the norm and the population is declining. To tackle this, the government has been launching campaigns to counteract these cultural shifts, including launching a matchmaking app in Jiangxi and removing bureaucratic barriers to migrant marriage.

Young Chinese are not necessarily easily swayed by such government campaigns, especially when they have clear patriotic calls to action, like promoting “new-era marriage and childbearing”. Young women in particular, who have long been threatened with the stigma of becoming “leftover women”, are increasingly unwilling to prioritize the interests of the nation above their autonomy. 


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