China may be learning an old lesson that strict divorce laws can mean fewer marriages. In addition to the country’s recent worries about the imminent decline in its population, the number of people in China getting married for the first time has been dropping too.
Although China has 1.4 billion people, the most in the world, its births are set to fall to record lows this year, demographers say, dropping 11.5% from 2020. China’s fertility rate in 2021 was below the OECD standard for a stable population, and among the lowest in the world.
Over the past year or so, China has enacted tax deductions, longer maternity leave, enhanced medical insurance, housing subsidies, and extra money for a third child, but the desire among Chinese women to have children is the lowest in the world.
Adding to the problem is China’s diminishing marriage rate, which slumped again. The number getting married for the first time dropped to 11.6 million last year, almost 700,000 down on the previous year. This was well down on a peak of 23.9 million in 2013.
Faced with mounting fertility problems and a soaring divorce rate, the ruling Communist Party in China introduced a rule last year to keep unhappy marriages together by forcing couples to undergo a 30-day “cooling off” period before finalizing a divorce.
The new law appears to have worked, according to government officials, marriage registration authorities have seen a drop in divorces that many local governments claimed was because of the controversial measure.
But along with that decline in the divorce rate, the number of marriage registrations plunged to a 36-year low in 2021. The fall in marriages has contributed to a plummet in birthrates, a worrying sign in China’s rapidly graying society and a phenomenon more familiar in countries like Japan and South Korea.
Florida No-Fault Divorce
The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.
I’ve written about divorce trends before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your husband’s alleged infidelity with a congresswoman. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.
No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.
The Great Wall to Marriage
Posters on social media in China have hailed the “wise” decision made by young people not marrying, and said they too would not be getting married. One user wrote:
“Marriage is like a gamble. The problem is that ordinary people can’t afford to lose, so I choose not to take part.”
The controversial measures enacted by the Chinese Communist Party have led to a dramatic fall in the divorce rate but critics have said it disadvantages women, particularly those without an independent source of income.
A divorce seeker has to wait for 30 days after making an application, and longer if the partner refuses to get divorce. Not to mention many people’s divorce requests were not approved even when they were suffering from cheating and domestic violence.
The director of the Guangdong Population Development, told Yicai news:
Young people face increasing life pressures, and cannot afford the burden of getting married, which traditionally involves buying a house and raising children. Young people prefer the freedom of single life.
The average age of people who get married for the first time also increased significantly, from 24.89 in 2010 to 28.67 in 2020, according to the China Population Census Yearbook 2020. A 2021 report published by iiMedia Research also highlighted growing numbers of people consciously identifying themselves as celibate.
Four per cent of 3,900 single respondents between the age 20 and 45 identified themselves as “steadfast celibates”, with another 21 per cent describing themselves as “less-determined celibates”.
Most of the self-declared celibates were women over 30, who were better-educated with a higher income in first-tier cities, according to the report.
The South China Morning Post article is here.