3 Reasons Chinese Youth Hesitate to Marry, from Economic Crisis to Fear of Parenthood

An alarming trend is sweeping across Chinese youth hesitate to enter into marriage. This phenomenon has garnered serious concern from the Chinese government due to its far-reaching implications for both population demographics and the wedding industry, which boasts an estimated worth of nearly USD 500 billion but now faces a significant threat. Here are three key reasons why Chinese youth are holding back from tying the knot.

Weakening Chinese Economy

This trend has become more evident as the Chinese economy weakens, and consumer confidence declines. It also raises concerns among officials who are striving to rejuvenate marriage rates and birth rates. Last year, the number of marriages hit a record low, resulting in a population decline for the first time in 60 years.

Yuan Jialiang, a former wedding planning business owner in Shanghai who shifted focus to wedding photography before the pandemic, states, “Marriage numbers are dwindling, and few are willing to splurge on weddings.” He adds, “The future of this industry appears unpromising.” There were 6.8 million weddings across China last year, approximately 800,000 fewer than in 2021 and the lowest figure since the government commenced publishing such data in 1986.

Exacerbating the Decline in Birth Rates

The drop in recorded marriages is exacerbating the decline in China’s birth rate, making it one of the world’s fastest-aging countries. Many cities deny childcare allowances or healthcare services to unmarried mothers, and having children out of wedlock often elicits disapproval.

Ben Cavender, Managing Director and Head of Strategy at China Market Research Group, reports, “There are many consumers who simply say ‘yes, marriage is not right for me,’ and many young adults in China perceive raising a child as too expensive.” He further explains, “Traditional Chinese wedding industries may be facing challenging times.”

A Stark Contrast to Pre-Pandemic Times

Before the pandemic struck, weddings were a thriving business in China, with Daxue Consulting estimating the industry’s worth at USD 487 billion in 2020. Couples typically chose gold jewelry, intricate decorations, and lavish venues.

However, Frank Chen of Chen Feng Wedding Planning in Shanghai notes that very few weddings this year have budgets exceeding USD 13,736. Chen remarks, “People are gravitating more toward simple and intimate weddings.” He adds that a decade ago, it was common for couples to spend millions of yuan.

Conclusion: Navigating Uncertain Waters

The reluctance of Chinese youth to enter into matrimony poses significant challenges for the nation, impacting economic stability and demographics alike. As economic uncertainties persist, and concerns over the cost of raising children remain, both the Chinese government and the wedding industry must adapt to cater to changing preferences and circumstances.

Whether these trends will persist or evolve in the post-pandemic era remains uncertain, but they undoubtedly present complex challenges that demand attention and innovation.