Many men and women across China are marrying later in life, prompting provincial governments to adopt measures to reverse the trend, according to data released by civil affairs departments on Monday.
In Jiangsu, a province with a population of over 85 million, a total of 412,286 couples were married in 2022, down 11.7 percent year-on-year. The figure has been declining for five consecutive years, according to the provincial civil affairs department.
Last year, the average age of people getting married in the province was 31.04 years, with the average ages for men and women 31.68 and 30.4, respectively.
In Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the average age of men registering their marriage was 31.7 in 2022, while for women it was 30.
Other cities that recorded late marriages among their residents last year include Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and Sanmenxia, Henan province.
According to the China Census Yearbook 2020, the average age of Chinese adults getting married for the first time rose to 28.67 that year. The average age of men getting married for the first time was 29.38 and for women 27.95. The figures were in stark contrast with 2010, when the average age for both men and women was 24.89.
Late marriages have become a matter of concern amid China's declining fertility rate. In 2021, the average number of children women planned to have was 1.64, down from 1.76 in 2017, according to data from the third China Population and Development Forum held in Beijing recently. The percentage of women who did not have children increased from 6.1 in 2015 to nearly 10 in 2020, according to the forum.
In 2010, the average age of men in China getting married for the first time was 25.75 and for women 24.
Yu Xiaoxin, director of the Jiangsu Civil Affairs Department's social affairs office, said that a range of factors — from better education to broader mindset and maturity — contributed to decisions to marry and have children late.
"China's population in the 25 to 30 age group is declining. That has also led to a decline in the number of marriages of young people being registered," she said.
Gender equality allows women to pursue the life they want, according to Yu. "Women today have higher expectations, and many of them are not willing to settle for anything (less than what they deserve). Conventional views, such as one must raise children so that one has someone during their old age, have changed."
All the above factors, together with the rising costs of marriage and childcare, have made it harder to increase the marriage rate, she said, adding that the department has rolled out measures to reverse the downward trend.
In Jiangsu, more than 209,000 couples filed for divorce in the past 12 months, while over 116,000 couples completed the procedure and received their divorce certificates. The average age of people divorcing in Jiangsu is 38.4, with the average ages for men and women 39.28 and 37.52, respectively.
Wang Youqin, director of the marriage counseling office at the Jiangning district marriage registration service center in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu, said the center has been counseling couples in need.
"We can help them with problems related to marriage, divorce, family conflicts and parent-child relationship. Our employees, social workers, lawyers and professional counselors offer these services," Wang said.
In Jiangsu, 40 percent of marriage registration centers provide online counseling. The service will be extended to people across the province by the end of this year, Yu said.
"About 30 percent people who had filed for divorce chose to give their marriage a second chance," she added.