China’s Marriage Rates Rise for First Time in Nine Years

In 2023, China witnessed a significant increase in the number of couples choosing to marry, marking the first uptick in marriage rates in nine years. According to data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, 7.68 million newlyweds tied the knot in the country, representing a 12.4% increase compared to the previous year. This translates to an additional 845,000 marriages in 2023 compared to 2022.

Historical Context:

China’s marriage rates have been declining for nearly a decade, with the last record high of 13.47 million marriages occurring in 2013. The country’s population growth has been a concern for the government, prompting the implementation of various policies to encourage couples to have more children.

Government Initiatives:

The rise in marriage rates comes as the Chinese government ramps up efforts to promote marriage and boost birth rates, which have reached record lows in recent years. Earlier this month, Premier Li Qiang pledged to create a “birth-friendly society” and support long-term, balanced population development. The state planner also announced plans to improve policies aimed at reducing the costs associated with childbirth, parenting, and education, as well as refining parental leave policies.

Factors Influencing Marriage Rates:

Several factors have contributed to the decline in marriage rates in China over the past decade. The country’s economic slowdown has led many individuals to postpone or forgo marriage altogether. Additionally, young women have expressed concerns over revised property laws that appear to favor male ownership, making them more hesitant to marry.

Divorce Rates:

Despite the increase in marriages, the latest figures also reveal a rise in the number of couples filing for uncontested divorces. In 2023, a total of 2.59 million couples registered for divorces where neither spouse objected. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has not yet released data on the number of contested divorces.

Aging Population:

China is facing the challenge of a rapidly aging population, with approximately 300 million Chinese citizens expected to retire within the next decade. This demographic shift is equivalent to nearly the entire population of the United States. As marriage rates are closely linked to birth rates, policymakers are hopeful that the recent uptick in marriages could lead to an increase in the number of babies born.

One-Child Policy and Its Aftermath:

China’s population growth has been a concern for decades, particularly after the introduction of the controversial one-child policy in the 1980s. The policy was aimed at controlling overpopulation at the time but has since contributed to falling birth rates. In 2015, the government lifted the one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children. Further relaxations were introduced in 2021, permitting couples to have up to three children.

Regional Comparisons:

China is not alone in its efforts to address falling birth rates and an aging population. Other major Asian economies, such as South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong, are also grappling with similar challenges. South Korea currently has the lowest birth rate in the world, with its population expected to halve by 2100. Japan recorded a record-low 800,000 births in 2022, while Hong Kong announced a HK$20,000 (£2,010) incentive for each newborn to combat the city’s low birth rate.

Important Facts for Exams

The one-child policy was introduced in China in the 1980s to control the country’s rapidly growing population. It was estimated that the policy prevented around 400 million births during its implementation.
In 2022, China’s population fell for the first time in six decades, with deaths outnumbering births.
The term “sheng nu,” which translates to “leftover women,” has been used in China to describe educated, professional women who remain unmarried in their late 20s and beyond.


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