Xi'an looks for joint efforts to address 'bachelor problem' in rural areas

2024-06-18 09:10:41China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

As the "bachelor problem" intensifies in China's rural areas, the government and experts have brainstormed some solutions such as organizing matchmaking activities and regulating sky-high bride prices, to help single men find a spouse.

The bureau of agriculture and rural affairs in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, recently published a reply to a proposal by members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Xi'an Municipal Committee, saying that it will encourage districts and counties to establish matchmaking platforms for unmarried young people in rural areas.

It said the districts and counties can learn from a sitcom-like matchmaking performance in Henan province, in which matchmakers play the role of Wang Po, a role in the Chinese novel Shuihu Zhuan, or Water Margin, from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

The bureau said that the growth in the number of unmarried men and women over age 30 from rural areas who postpone their marriages, or have difficulty finding a spouse, is due to the gender imbalance and widening gaps in education and incomes.

"Some older unmarried men from rural areas are not that competitive in the marriage market as they have comparatively weaker education backgrounds and lower incomes than women from urban areas, and the latter usually choose spouses with higher standards," the bureau said. "Also, the stereotypical bias for sons in rural areas, the financial pressure of buying homes and weaker public services in the countryside may increase the difficulty of finding a spouse for a single man from a rural area."

The bachelor problem in rural areas was the subject of heated online discussion earlier this year, after a professor from Central China Normal University in Wuhan, Hubei province, published a report on the marriage situation of older single men in rural areas.

The report said that single men in over 40 percent of China's villages have trouble finding a spouse. The report was based on a survey of 1,785 rural households from 119 villages in 26 provinces and regions.

Huang Zhenhua, from the university's Institute of China Rural Studies, who led the research, told Red Star News — a news outlet in Chengdu, Sichuan province — that the marriage problems faced by single men in rural areas are a social issue closely related to villagers' stereotypical views on childbirth, the economic situation in rural areas and the exodus from the countryside.

"The males face the pressure of paying bride prices — roughly 188,000 yuan ($26,000) or even 300,000 yuan — and buying homes and cars," he said.

The bureau said that joint efforts from the government, families and wider society are needed to help ease the marriage problems of young people from rural areas.

It said the government can help young people from rural areas develop a reasonable and correct view of marriage through promotional activities, and offer them benefits such as pensions, healthcare and housing to reduce the financial pressure they are under.

It said it will establish marriage services and matchmaking platforms with other departments, and organize more on-site matchmaking events to offer young people from rural areas more opportunities to find a spouse. Some events will be held to guide people to boycott sky-high bride prices.

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that by the end of 2021, China had about 239 million people over age 15 who were single. Census results show that in 2020, the average age of those getting married for the first time was 28.67 years, up from 24.89 in 2010.

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