HONG KONG – Local Chinese officials are trying to encourage early marriages by offering an incentive all newlyweds can appreciate: Cash.
Last week, officials from Changshan County, located in Zhejiang’s eastern province, announced that couples who marry with a bride under 25 years of age will receive a reward worth 1,000 yuan (137 dollars).
The notice stated that the reward is only for couples who are marrying their first child. It is intended to encourage “age-appropriate wedding and childbearing.” The county announced several subsidies for parents to assist with education, child care and fertility.
Multiple levels of government are experimenting with different measures to increase birth rates in China. The country is facing a demographic crisis, as the population has declined for the first six-decade period.
is one of them. It abolished the “one child policy”, which was in place from the 1970s to 2016, and was intended to limit births so as to keep China’s population growth from accelerating. Since 2021 couples are allowed to have up to three children.
The government’s efforts to reduce China’s rate of fertility, which reached a record low 1.09 last Year, have not had the desired impact. China Population and Development Research Center (a government-backed institute) said that the number of Chinese women having children was the lowest in any country with more than 100 million people.
Chinese news outlet Yicai, citing data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, reported that the number of marriages was lowest in China in the past year, with 6.8 million.
According to the 2020 national census, China’s first marriage age has been steadily increasing in recent years due to industrialization, urbanization, and education. It will reach more than 29 in 2020 for men, and nearly 28 in 2020 for women. The marriage age is 20 years for women and 22 for men.
The young Chinese have fewer or no children because of the long work hours, limited options for child care and increasing concerns about the economy.
Users on social media criticized the policy of cash rewards as “ineffective,” claiming that the amount is a mere drop in the bucket when compared to the high costs associated with raising a child within China’s highly-competitive society. Some said that the policy discriminated against women because it did not mention an age restriction for men.
Why is it only for women under 25 years old? “Promoting early marriage and childbirth should be the exact same for men and women, right?” wrote a user on Weibo (China’s Twitter equivalent, now called X).
Another Weibo member wrote: “Such measures are discriminatory and will make people less likely to marry.” “Do I really need to borrow 1,000 yuan?”