Is China Having a Family Crisis?
China’s marriage rates have been on the decline for eight years while their divorce rates are climbing dramatically. 2021 saw the lowest birth rate since 1949 and the lowest population growth in 60 years, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Clearly, the world’s second-biggest nation will face major family changes in the 21st century.
Why are fewer Chinese getting married? Rapid urbanization drove people to cities where all the rules were different. The cost of living, especially housing, has made marriage unaffordable for many. Economically, it’s easier to remain single.
Traditionally, a Chinese man marries a woman from a lower economic level. For this reason, millions of male day laborers are without the possibility of marriage.
Women have had the chance to develop their own careers, and some have excelled. Such women are left with two tough choices. If she excels at work, there are few men of her economic level to marry. If she marries and has children, her employer will regard her as far less valuable, and it will hurt her career. As in the West, Chinese employers don’t want to compete with family obligations for an employee’s time.
Some urban Chinese women don’t feel they get anything out of marriage. The Chinese wife takes on all domestic duties, including caring for children and elderly parents. In that part of the world, traditionally-minded husbands treat their wives like servants rather than companions; she gets little satisfaction from her relationship with him. Commonly, urban women live alone, and their primary relationships are with close friends.
Divorce rates are rising quickly, which is strange for a nation that made marriages permanent for centuries. During much of the Mao Era, divorce rarely happened. Divorce became more common in the 1980s. In 1994, a new marriage law still required the go-ahead from an employer or community leader. China didn’t stop divorce restrictions until 2003.
The Chinese government is concerned about these trends. Ironically, this same government encouraged widespread abortions for decades, largely because they wanted to curb population growth. Now they are considering limiting abortions because they are concerned about population decline. Some Chinese women believe the government is using them to lower or raise the birth rate for their own purposes.
Sadly, the Chinese family is being harmed because people neglect to heed God’s Word. Husbands are supposed to love their wives and care for all their needs. Wives are supposed to respect their husbands. Hopefully, the Chinese Church will show their nation the way to have healthy and loving families.
Radiichina, I Do… Not: Marriage Registrations Hit Historic Low in China, March 31, 2022.
CNN, Chinese millennials aren’t getting married, and the government is worried, January 29, 2021
Financial Review, China’s hidden love story: divorce, January 23, 2016
The Guardian, China to clamp down on abortions for ‘non-medical purposes’, September 27, 2021