Last year, the number of marriages in China fell to a 36-year low, exacerbating the world’s secondlargest economy’s demographic issue. Analysts predict this will contribute to the country’s
dropping birth rate. In Jiangsu Province, the number of marriages has decreased for five years in
a row, while in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, the number of marriages recorded in 2021 was
less than 80% of those registered in 2011.
Since most children are born within marriages, a drop in marriage registrations would lead to a
decline in the birth rate in China, according to He Yafu, an independent demographer who spoke
to the state-run Global Times newspaper.
China’s population expanded by less than half a million to 1.4126 billion last year, as the birth rate
declined for the sixth year in a row, fueling fears of an impending demographic catastrophe and
its prospective detrimental impact on its economy. The number of young people in the country is
declining, which means that the labour force will shrink dramatically in the coming years if birth
rates continue to decline. There are concerns that this will negatively influence the country’s
economy in the future.
Coupled with this, the number of marriage registrations in China is continuing to fall over the last
three years, the number of registrations for marriage has declined dramatically, with an estimate
of lesser than ten million couples marrying in 2019, lesser than nine million in 2020, and less than
eight million in 2021.
According to the Global Times, the number of couples who married in China in 2021 was only
56.6 per cent of the level in 2013, when the number of marriage registrations peaked. Marriage
registration numbers in China have been falling for eight years, according to He, due to a fall in
the number of young people, more males than women of marriageable age, and the decision to
wait until they are older. Furthermore, due to Chinese women’s increased educational and
economic development, their propensity to marry is even lower than that of males.
Since the costs of marriage and child-rearing are growing in both undeveloped and developed
areas, marriage rates are falling in both rural and urban areas, according to James Liang, economist
and chairman of China’s biggest travel operator Trip.com.
In addition, the average age of Chinese couples who marry has grown dramatically. The average
age for first-marriage registration in Anhui Province, East China, was 33.31 years in 2021,
compared to 26 years in 2008. China abolished the harsh decades-old one-child policy in 2016,
allowing all couples to have two children, which policymakers blamed for the present demographic
catastrophe. Last year, Beijing issued a new Population and Family Planning Law that allows
Chinese couples to have three children, ostensibly responding to couples’ unwillingness to have
additional children due to rising costs.
The decision to allow the third child was implemented after the once-in-a-decade census in 2020
showed that China’s population expanded at the slowest rate in history, reaching 1.412 billion
people. According to census data, China’s demographic issue is predicted to worsen as the over 60
years old increased by 18.7% to 264 million people.
The population policy’s original goals were to curb population increase and encourage economic
development, and it has accomplished both. According to the 2010 census, China’s overall
population has grown 5.8% since 2000, from 1.27 billion to 1.34 billion, compared to a pace of
11.7 per cent, nearly twice, during the 1990 and 2000 censuses (Hvistendahl, 2011). Economic
development has resulted from the population policy, which has also helped to alleviate
environmental and economic concerns.
These advantages, however, have come at a tremendous social and political price, as seen by the
high sex ratio, sex imbalance in the marriage market, and rapid ageing. These are substantially
worse than anticipated and have developed into severe social issues.
The policies also have ethical issues, such as the link between population objectives and financial
incentives, coerced abortions, strained relationships between cadres and the public during
implementation, data system failure due to inaccurate data, and abortion for sex selection. All of
these issues have an impact on social development including the one-child policy that has altered
China’s culture. Although China is not yet ready to abandon its current birth strategy, government
regulation consisting of humane choices would exacerbate many issues. Less restrictive policies
are viable choices with likely sound social and economic effects for the country