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China Daily Website

Love is ideal; marriage is real

Updated: 2012-02-13 15:22
By Gao Zhuyuan ( chinadaily.com.cn)

Valentine’s Day brings love and marriage to mind, but in modern days, there is also this question: Is money so important for marriage? A recent survey says yes, if you want to be a groom.

A joint survey in January by baihe.com and the matchmaking industry of some 50,000 single people showed that 77 percent of single women believe a man with a monthly income of more than 4,000 yuan ($634.92) is fit for dating. Apparently, a stable income, housing and a decent savings account really matter when a woman is choosing mate.

The survey results may fuel the accusation that single women these days are money hungry. This is a misnomer because the survey doesn’t tell us entire story. Those surveyed were mainly single people from large- and medium-sized cities, and more than three-fourths have higher education. So, it is understandable that these single women both have comparatively higher incomes and income expectations, not only for themselves but also for a potential mate.

Whether we admit it or not, most Chinese women do not want a husband with less earning power, not out of a sense of vanity, but because of the age-old Chinese attitude that a husband who earns less would be intimidated by the higher earning power of his wife.

If the survey results indicate anything, it is the increasing economic competence of Chinese single women and their higher expectations of a potential boyfriend and husband.

Higher expectations include a stable income and housing as the basis for marriage. In this manner, people can improve their status by marrying up the social and economic scale. Cinderella stories existed in traditional Chinese society where women were deemed inferior.

Although great changes have taken place in the status of women, the story survives.

Statistics released last October by the All-China’s Women Federation and the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Chinese women between the ages of 18 and 64 received on average 8.8 years of education, 2.7 years longer than a decade ago, and only three months less than men’s. Some 33.7 percent of women were educated at the senior middle school level or above. Women have an employment rate of 71 percent and make up more than 40 percent of the labor force in agriculture and the service industries.

However, these statistics also show that women still face gender discrimination to varying degrees in finding jobs and getting promotions, and women are not equal to men, at least not in income. The average annual income of women in urban areas is about 67 percent of men’s and for those in the rural areas, the figure drops to 56 percent.

Based on the criteria of the United Nations’ Human Development Report’s Gender Empowerment Measure, a monitor of inequality between men and women in gaining opportunities in the political and economic forum, women in China have less than half the opportunities than men.

China has witnessed robust economic development and earth-shaking social transformation but is still sluggish in meeting the needs of women for equality, especially economically. Thus, marriage has become a mechanism which enables the less advantageous party to share the spouse’ resources, and women, especially the ones that are less economically competent, can still resort to marriage to secure a better standard of living.

The higher expectations of Chinese single women, to a great extent, reflect their eagerness to seek a sense of security on the economic front. The widespread accusations made against women for being money hungry are unfair. Rather it is a reflection of still existing social inequality, and a lack of understanding between the two sexes and all hype that is aimed for sensational effects.

Yet we have to admit that love, although still the dominant impetus for marriage, seems less powerful in reality than the way it is depicted.

Love is supposed to be a chemical reaction. Shakespeare wrote that love is blind and lovers cannot see, while the reality in China is Chinese women are clear-eyed, especially when it comes to marriage.