China is quickly becoming a country of singles, with its unmarried population reaching 200 million in 2015. Though media outlets and government bodies are worried about the consequences caused by the so-called wave of singledom, demographers and uncoupled Chinese citizens believe the trend will only grow in the future.
Among the 200 million unmarried men and women in China, over 58 million are living on their own. The unmarried population in China accounted for 14.6 percent of the country’s population in 2013 - a percentage that has skyrocketed from 6 percent in 1990.
Demographers believe that the independence of modern Chinese women is one of the main causes of the growing unmarried population. According to research conducted by Tencent in 2016, 36.8 percent of single Chinese women believe marriage is not necessary to live happy lives.
“Traditionally, a woman is expected to stay at home, taking care of her husband and children. Without income, women were tied to their marriages and husbands. In modern times, women can also have an income, which allows them to choose to be single,” Li Yinhe, a leading Chinese sexologist, told Reference News.
Echoing Li, Su Cen, an expert in gender studies, said Chinese women nowadays prioritize emotional connection over material wealth. Most women would not force themselves to accept a marriage devoid of affection.
Though demographers believe that the single boom will become even more pronounced in the future, the concept of marriage is still highly valued in Chinese society.
“For thousands of years, Chinese people have attached great importance to reproduction, believing that this is the best way to become ‘immortal.’ Such traditions have strongly affected the Chinese view of marriage; even many gay men marry women just to have a child,” Li added.
In addition these traditional motivations, pressure from anxious parents also pushes young adults - especially women - to get married and thereby avoid social ostracization. Unwed women over the age of 27 are still often referred to as “leftover women,” which shapes Chinese people’s view of marriage.
In both tradition and law, Chinese society is typically reluctant to cater to singles' rights and needs. Experts believe that the government should provide more social resources for the unmarried population, as the trend of staying single is inevitable in China's future.