The number of people getting married in China dropped in 2022 to the lowest since the late 70s, with just 6.8 million couples tying the knot last year.
That figure – 800,000 below 2021 – may have been partly caused by tough Covid lockdowns, but it continues a steady decline over the past decade.
The drop in registered marriages follows pandemic restrictions in cities such as Shanghai that kept tens of millions locked in their homes or compounds for weeks last year.
A report in the Global Times said there were multiple reasons for the fall, such as the smaller number of young people compared to previous decades, the “unbalanced gender ratio of marriageable population” (more men than women), the higher cost of getting married and buying property, plus “changed marriage concepts of younger generations”.
The average age at which couples are getting married has also risen from 24.9 years a decade ago to 28.67 years in 2020, CNN reported.
Falling population, disillusioned young
And these changes come as authorities struggle to boost a declining birth rate and a falling population.
Rising costs of living and record youth unemployment have deterred some young people from wanting to have children.
The government’s sweeping crackdown on key sectors such as tech and private education added to these concerns, some analysts have said.
Political discontent and rigid social controls, as seen during the Covid-19 lockdowns, appeared to create a negative sentiment among young people known as ‘lying flat’.
Population decline spurs workforce concerns
In 2022 China’s population fell for the first time in six decades, a decline that is expected to mark the start of a long period of decline in its citizen numbers with profound implications for its economy and the world.
China’s birth rate fell last year to 6.77 births per 1,000 people, the lowest on record, from 7.52 in 2021.
Demographers warn China will get old before it gets rich, as its workforce shrinks and indebted local governments spend more on their elderly population.
To encourage marriage and boost the country’s flagging birth rate, China said last month it would launch pilot projects in more than 20 cities to create a “new-era” marriage and childbearing culture.
Some provinces are also giving young newlyweds an extension of paid marriage leave.
- Jim Pollard with Reuters