xi's moments

Building a more inclusive society for singles

China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-26 08:26

Editor's note: The singles' population on the Chinese mainland had reached 240 million by 2016, and it is projected to reach 400 million in the future, with "leftover women", especially in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, drawing increasingly more public attention. What has led to this demographic change? And how should Chinese authorities respond to the boom in the singles' population? Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Liu Jianna. Excerpts follow:

Singles pose no problem to development

Several factors may have contributed to the vast increase in the singles' population. To begin with, people on average are getting married at a much later age. In particular, women are delaying their marriage by opting for higher education which could take up to 10 years. Women in Shanghai generally entered their first marriage at the age of 28.4 years in 2015, 5.4 years later than in 2005, according to a report recently released by Shanghai Women's Federation.

In addition, the gradual, yet radical, changes in people's lifestyle, values and views on relationships have led to the exponential increase in the singles' population. For instance, people today are increasingly open to the idea of cohabitation, leading to a significant rise in the number of people opting for live-in relationship. Besides, unlike in the past, single persons are no longer regarded as "weirdoes".

With a massive singles' population and a shrinking labor force, the government should at least consider easing the restrictions on out-of-wedlock birth in order to protect the interests of women and children as every person is endowed with reproductive rights. For example, it is illegal for Chinese single women to freeze their eggs, although granting them this right would significantly increase their freedom to give birth when they chose to.

In some European countries, children born to unmarried parents are treated as equals to those born to married couples, both legally and socially. And even if the out-of-wedlock birth rate reaches 50 percent in certain countries, it should not come as a surprise.

The impact of the significant increase in the singles' population on the mainland's economic development would be hard to assess. For example, married couples may be more driven to seek success in work due to the pressure of supporting a family, yet single persons could devote more time and energy to their careers. Also, with the growing singles' population, consumption of single men and women would further increase while family-related consumption could drop in the long term.

So contrary to popular analysis, the problem of "leftover" women or men may not pose such a serious challenge to the Chinese mainland's overall economic and social development, because even during historical periods when the sex ratio was not so skewed, there were many unmarried men and women. And, as Taiwan's experience shows, the rising number of "leftover" men doesn't necessarily mean a notable rise in sex-related crimes or instability in society.

We should view the rising population of "leftover" women and men objectively and avoid being judgmental because whether to get married or give birth are personal choices that deserve due respect. In other words, we need to build a singles-friendly society.

Li Jianmin, a professor at the Institute of Population and Development, Nankai University

Enormous impact on society and economy

The increase in the number of "leftover" women is not only a demographic issue but also a social issue. Treating it in the light of social culture will give us more precise explanations of the issue. The traditional marriage culture of women marrying men of a higher social and economic status makes it difficult for a growing number of outstanding women to find a suitable life partner.

As the Chinese society matures, the phenomenon of entering wedlock at a much later age, even staying single for life, is likely to become more common. Since marriage and family no longer guarantee lifelong togetherness or happiness, people are becoming increasingly averse to the idea of marriage.

The boom in the singles' population would influence China's social and economic development. Social closeness and bonding may decrease while the service industry, including the take-out sector, is expected to develop and grow faster to meet the diverse and increasing demands of single persons.

Mu Guangzong, a professor at the Institute of Population Research, Peking University

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