A choice

Despite pressure from government and parents, Chinese ‘leftover’ women put careers ahead of marriage

Two women in China. (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

As marriage rates plummet and the average age of marriage rises in China, some experts are attributing the change to the country’s women — who have increasingly defied societal and governmental pressures by pursuing careers ahead of spouses.

While arranged marriages in China have been outlawed since 1950, parental pressure to get married remains fierce — about 80 percent of Chinese people of marital age said they’ve felt pressure from their parents to get married, according to one report. The Chinese government, worried about the potential societal impact of millions of surplus men looking for brides — an imbalance caused by gender-selective abortion — has been pushing women to get married as quickly as possible. In 2007, the ministry of education declared women 27 years or older “leftover women,” and suggested that they relax their “unrealistic” standards. Just this year, the government canceled a honeymoon leave program for women who got married past the age of 23.

But with 85 percent of both male and female migrant workers working 44 hours a week, many young people are putting work ahead of their relationships. And despite suffering discrimination in the workplace, the limited legal protection married Chinese women receive in the case of divorce means that for many increasing their earning power is a safer choice than jumping into a marriage.

In addition to these varied pressures, many young women appear to be resisting the desires of their parents and their government all on their own. For these women, not getting married isn’t a ‘problem’ — it’s a choice.

Watch a video below that features Chinese women protesting against the pressure they face to get married.

Read the full story at Quartz.


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