House prices soaring over young Chinese

16:54, January 13, 2010      

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Looking up at a new building for sale, Jin Jian, a fitness trainer in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province turned and left with a sigh.

"There's no way I can afford it," The 28-year-old has been dating for sometime but nothing ever developed as women are looking for a man with a decent apartment, said Jin.

"Frankly speaking, if I have to buy an apartment, I can't afford to marry," he said.
Like Jin, many Chinese born in the 1980s, at a time when China began its market reforms, were struggling as a consequence of the country's bullish property market.

With half of his 4,000-yuan ($586) monthly income spent on rent and living expenses, Jin needs to save at least for 20 years to own a 60-square-meter apartment in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang.

Decades ago, the newly employed could always make do with dormitories first and later would move into rented apartments after getting married, secure in the fact that an apartment or house would be provided to them by the government.

But it is a different story today, as home ownership has become an elusive dream for many. Statistics from Goldman Sachs showed that over the past six years, housing price hikes have outpaced average income by 30 percentage points in Shanghai and 80 percentage points in Beijing.

The global economic slowdown has not stopped property prices from rising. Official statistics illustrate that housing prices in 70 different cities rose 5.7 percent year-on-year in November 2009.

Jin is not the only one reluctantly remaining single. A survey by China Youth Daily's Center for Social Research showed that 35.6 percent of more than 4,000 people polled would not commit to marriage if they did not own an apartment or house.

Xu Jing, a 24-year-old graduate student of the Northeast Normal University, also wanted to own a home before getting married. "Can love withstand the test of not owning a home? I'm not sure."

A housing agent surnamed Wang said that turning to parents is often the only option for 1980s-generation who cannot afford a down payment.

"But that ends up burdening three families; the young couple and parents from both sides," said Wang.

"I will not burden my parents with so much trouble," said Xu.

While some young Chinese choose to be single, others feel the pressure to marry even though they have little financial security.

These unions are satirically called "naked marriages", in which a couple forgoes the traditional ceremony, wedding banquet or owning an apartment. Their only expense is 9 yuan for their marriage certificates.

Zou Heng, 22, a restaurant employee in southwestern Yunnan Province, spent nothing on his wedding aside from two rings.

"We wanted to save for either the mortgage down payment or starting up our own business," he said.

Duan Chengrong, a sociology professor at the People's University of China, said that outside factors such as economy leads to cultural changes and adjustments to traditionally held views.

"As China experiences social and economic transformation, a new generation is learning to adjust to traditional by managing problems and challenges in their own way," Duan said.

Source: Xinhua
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