An estimated 200 million unmarried Chinese will return home this week to celebrate the Lunar New Year, arriving in homes filled with the scent of steamed dumplings and fish, filled with questions about when they plan to get married and start a family. We were welcomed by relatives.
The annual hearing is such a predictable part of young Chinese lives that social media channels are flooded with viral how-to guides educating people on how to get rid of pushy parents.
“Everyone has their own technique,” said a Beijing teacher in his late 20s. She has kept her boyfriend a secret from her family for years as a preemptive strategy against her marriage demands.
For decades, young Chinese have invented creative tactics to soften their parents’ demands on marriage and grandchildren, all while juggling taxing jobs in big cities and sky-high real estate prices. It has been put off by the exorbitant cost of modern parenting.
The battle to get China’s young people to marry and have children is moving from the family home to the political arena as the world’s most populous nation enters. Long-term and irreversible population decline.
Last week, Chinese officials announced that the long-awaited tipping point had finally arrived. officially scaled back in 2022 For the first time in 60 years, 850,000 people died, outnumbering births.
ChinaChina’s demographic outlook will be even darker. A rapidly aging population leaves fewer and fewer taxpayers to fund strained social services and hospital systems. fragile condition.
In response, local governments began offering subsidies to families with multiple children. Others are adopting more creative tactics. Ningling county in central Henan province took on the role of matchmaker in late December, sponsoring a speed-dating event where masked singletons would gather in the cold and pin their numbers on their winter coats.
But experts are pessimistic that government efforts to raise fertility rates will be more effective than those of parents.
“So far, nothing seems to have stalled,” said Wang Feng, a sociologist and demographic expert at the University of California, Irvine. “It is easy for governments to write new slogans, but it is quite another to change the working and living conditions of young people.”
In 2016, Beijing lifted nearly 40 years of the one-child limit, the world’s toughest population policy, and went so far as to encourage couples to have children in 2021. up to 3 childrenHowever, the expected baby boom did not materialize. After initially rising in his first year, the number of infants in China has been declining every year since.
many chinese delayed or decided to have children, the health crisis and financial instability brought on by Covid-zero restrictions weigh heavily on the couple. Henan’s fertility rate, a measure of births per 1,000 people, plummeted by nearly 30% from 2019 to 2021.
The total number of young people who can marry in China continues to decline year by year, but the actual number of young people who do get married is getting married later. The number of women of childbearing age (ages 15 to 49) fell by more than 4 million last year as a result of the one-child policy.
Liu Ping, a Chinese feminist activist in New York, said government initiatives to encourage marriage were “ineffective.” That’s because they didn’t address the “real reasons why young people don’t want to have children” that have cultural and economic roots.
“Young people no longer see childbearing as inevitable,” she said, noting the changing social and professional goals among young people in China. She said, “They no longer feel bound by parenting traditions.”
Rising youth unemployment, soaring housing and education costs in major cities, and rising medical costs to care for elderly relatives are powerful disincentives to having a family for China’s young generation. It is
A woman in her 20s in Beijing said she began responding to inquiries from relatives by asking if marriage was “a cult of people who want to bring more people into institutions when they get married.” rice field.
Another tactic advertised in online videos is for women to undergo human papillomavirus vaccination courses. This requires three doses over an 18-month period, during which women are advised not to become pregnant.
Lü predicted that despite pressure, young people would continue to shy away from official attempts to boost fertility.
Additional reporting by Xinning Liu in Beijing