Marriages in China hit a 36-year low fuelling concerns over declining birth rate
Falling marriage rates are seen in both rural areas and big cities, because the costs of marriage and child-rearing are rising in both underdeveloped and developed areas, says expert
Beijing: The number of marriages in China last year dropped to a 36-year low, accentuating the world's second largest economy's demographic crisis as experts say this will add to the declining birth rate in the country.
A total of 7.63 million couples registered to get married across China in 2021, a record low for the past 36 years since 1986 when the Ministry of Civil Affairs started to release such statistics.
The decline in the number of marriage registrations will inevitably result in the decline of the birth rate in China, since most children are born within marriages, He Yafu, an independent demographer told the state-run Global Times newspaper.
Early this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said China's population grew by less than half a million last year to 1.4126 billion as the birth rate fell for the fifth consecutive year, stoking fears of a looming demographic crisis and its adverse impact on the country's economy in future.
China's population increased by 480,000 in a year-on-year comparison from 2020 down from 12 million, as per the NBS data.
Coupled with this, China now faces a continued decline in the number of marriage registrations.
The numbers fell sharply over the past three years with less than 10 million couples getting married in 2019, less than nine million in 2020, and less than eight million marriage registrations in 2021.
The number of couples who tied the knot in 2021 was only 56.6 per cent of the figure in 2013 when the number of marriage registrations reached a peak, the report said.
According to He, marriage registration numbers in China have been declining for eight consecutive years due to a declining number of young people, more men than women of marriageable age and the decision to put off marriage until they are older.
Besides, due to Chinese women's rising educational and economic development, their willingness to get married is even lower than that of men.
Falling marriage rates are seen in both rural areas and big cities, because the costs of marriage and child-rearing are rising in both underdeveloped and developed areas, James Liang, economist and chairman of China's leading travel agency Trip.com, said.
Also, the ages of Chinese couples who tied the knot had risen significantly. In east China's Anhui Province, the average age for first-marriage registration in 2021 was 33.31 years, compared with 26 years in 2008.
The delayed age of marriage in Anhui was shocking since it was even higher than in regional developed countries such as Japan and South Korea, Liang said.
Since Anhui is not the most advanced province in China, the ages of first marriages in more advanced regions such as Beijing and Shanghai would be even higher, which means dropping marriage and birth rates, he said.
China permitted all couples to have two children in 2016, scrapping the draconian decades-old one-child policy which policy-makers blamed for the current demographic crisis.
Beijing last year passed a revised Population and Family Planning Law allowing Chinese couples to have three children in an apparent attempt to address the reluctance of couples to have more kids due to mounting costs.
The decision to permit the third child came after the once-in-a-decade census in 2020 showed that China's population grew at its slowest pace to 1.412 billion.
The census figures revealed the demographic crisis China faced was expected to deepen as the population above 60 years grew to 264 million up by 18.7 per cent.
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