The number of newlywed couples in China has fallen for seven years in a row, dropping to 8.14 million in 2020, the lowest record in 17 years after peaking at 13.47 million in 2013 as according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China.
The figure has reflected the changing attitudes among China’s young people towards marriage, with a pursuit of a more independent lifestyle contributing to the trend. Some young people are worried about becoming a “marriage slave”, or hunnü 婚奴 in Chinese, due to the growing costs of marriage and parenting on their ability to live their life.
In addition to the financial burden, it is increasingly common that young Chinese choose to prioritise their career, with getting married being pushed back in their agenda, adding to the slump of newlyweds within the country.
This consistent decline in marriage has inevitably taken a toll on China’s already concerningly low birth rates. According to the latest national census, the number of China’s newborn babies in 2020 had fallen to 12 million, a drop of 2.65 million in a year. This marks a 33% decline since 2016 when the country relaxed its birth policy.
Despite the introduction of the two-child and then three-child policies in a bid to boost birth rates, these efforts have rarely incentivised China’s young couples to have children. This has raised concerns on the health of the world’s second-largest economy, as the compound effects of falling birth rates and aging population diminish China’s workforce.
Although some have argued that the pandemic has also played a part in the declined marriage registration, with service disrupted and celebrations put on hold, many have not seen signs that the demographic downturn in China would be reversed in the foreseeable future.
As societal changes in attitudes towards marriage are the fundamental cause, more efforts on addressing concerns of the young generation are needed before the country can see more young families.