China grappling with declining marriage, birth rate
A county in central China has sparked controversy by offering a host of incentives to encourage “leftover” women to marry, including with unemployed men, local media have reported, amid rising concern about the country’s dwindling birth rate.
Yihuang county in Jiangxi province is offering preferential treatment for housing and employment, as well as birth allowances, to women and their partners, according to a report from Shanghai-based media The Paper.
“At present, the phenomenon of ‘older young female cadres and workers’ remaining single in our county has become a very prominent problem, which urgently needs the care, help and support of the whole society,” the county government reportedly said in a document, referring to women older than 26.
More controversially, authorities are trying to encourage women to marry unemployed men by promising their husbands vocational and entrepreneurship training, business loans and priority for public service positions.
The proposal has been slammed online, with women questioning why it was a problem if they chose not to marry.
“I think I know why the marriage rate and the birth rate keep falling, if they don’t respect women or treat women as human beings, then the extinction of mankind is not far!” said one commenter on social media platform Weibo.
Another said: “Why should a 26-year-old female cadre be told that she is ‘old’ and has to have a baby with unemployed rubbish?”
China is grappling with a declining marriage rate and birth rate, which has prompted a flurry of policies from local governments around the country to address the problem, including establishing official matchmaking databases, organising dating activities and giving out housing allowances based on the number of children in a family.
Yihuang county, which has a population of 240,000, is also collecting information from single women to establish a database for matchmaking purposes, the document said.
Last year, a proposal from a senior think tank official to match China’s “leftover” urban women with unmarried rural men also sparked anger on social media.
In China, “leftover women”, or sheng nu, is a term used to describe unmarried – although usually highly educated and urban – women as young as 27.
China recorded a historically low birth rate in 2021, despite ending its decades-old one-child policy in 2016 and allowing couples to have three children last year.
Chinese mothers gave birth to 10.62 million babies in 2021 – down 11.5 per cent from 12 million in 2020, official statistics show.
The national birth rate fell to 7.52 births for every 1,000 people, down from 8.52 in 2020, the lowest rate since records began.