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“Why Aren’t You Getting Married?” – China’s Marriage Rates Keep Dropping

China’s marriage rates have hit a new low, but Weibo’s singletons blame their unmarried status on circumstances beyond their control.

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China’s dropping marriage rates have been a hot topic in Chinese newspapers and on Chinese social media recently. Chinese netizens and state media, however, seem to have different views on what lies at the root of the matter.

“Marriage rates are dropping year by year,” state media outlet People’s Daily writes on Weibo this week: “Statistics show that more and more people are less willing to get married every year (..). Experts point out that younger people are more focused on themselves and how they feel, rather than how they appear to others.”

“At the same time,” People’s Daily continues: “Marriage is no longer the sole option to obtain economic independence and a happy life for young people. Additionally, with the continuous development of societal standards, the costs of marriage have gone up, and many people don’t want to marry.”

With its social media post, People’s Daily introduced the Weibo hashtag “Why Aren’t You Getting Married?” (#你为啥不结婚#), which had received over 22 million views a day after it was posted.

Over recent weeks, many Chinese media have reported on how China’s marriage rates have hit a new low since 2013, with only 7.2 out of 1000 people getting married in 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Marriage rates [per 1000 population] since 2008 (via China Business Industry Research Data Center 中商业产业研究大数据库).

With a rapidly aging population and dropping birth rates, China’s falling marriage rates are a source of worry for many experts.

In 2015, some well-known scholars already urged Chinese younger generations to get married and produce offspring, writing: “For the country, for society, for parents, can’t you let go a bit of personal happiness?”

The only places where the marriage rates are still going somewhat strong are in some of China’s more impoverished areas, including Tibet, Qinghai, Anhui, and Guizhou, suggesting that there’s a clear correlation between the rise in living standards and declining marriage rates.

Although Chinese state media outlets, such as People’s Daily, Xinhua, or China Women’s Daily, do mention the rising costs of living and the fact that many among Chinese younger generations “prefer to marry late,” with some not marrying at all, they do not mention other reasons that might explain the recent decline in marriage rates.

 

Leftover Men, Leftover Women, and Rising Bride Prices

 

Over recent years, various trends on Chinese social media have highlighted the existing social issues behind China’s dropping marriage rates. In 2015, it was China’s so-called ‘leftover’ single men who were pointed out as a “crisis,” with China having millions of more men than women of marriageable age – partly a consequence of the one-child policy and general preference for baby boys.

The fact that one survey, albeit small-scale, pointed out that 50% of Chinese single men think that women who are still single at the age of 25 are ‘leftovers’ might also not be helpful in boosting marriage rates.

image by whatsonweibo.com

For some years, ‘leftover women’ were mentioned as a reason for China’s declining marriage rates; China’s well-educated, career-oriented, urban single women were sometimes singled out for making it harder for China’s unmarried men to find a wife because of their ‘choice’ to postpone marriage and family life. This has increased the pressure on China’s single women to get married, which has become a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

And then there is the issue of staggering bride prices in those areas where ‘bride prices’ are still a custom: within a timeframe of 17 years, bride prices in China’s rural areas have increased more than sixty-fold. For many unmarried men in some Chinese provinces, marriage has simply become an unattainable goal.

All in all, with a surplus of (rural) men, more (urban) educated, career-oriented women, strong traditional views on the ‘right’ marriage age for women, a higher cost of living, and a rising bride price for the relatively few women of marriage age in rural areas, it is perhaps too easy to say that postponing marriage is simply a matter of ‘choice’ or ‘preference’ for China’s younger generations.

 

Changing Policies

 

The many comments on Weibo to the question “Why Aren’t You Getting Married?” also show that there is no straightforward answer to China’s dropping marriage rates, and that’s it is not merely a matter of preference.

“You first propagated for years that we were supposed to ‘get married late and give birth late’ (晚婚晚育) in addition to ‘fewer and healthier births’ (少生优生), now you change your tune and we’re to blame?” one popular comment says.

At the time of the one-child policy, propaganda posters and state media encouraged people to postpone marriage and childbirth in order to help control China’s population growth. Various policies were introduced to make people marry later. The ‘late marriage leave,’ for example, allowed people to take a 30-day paid leave when getting married over the age of 25. That particular policy was canceled in 2016.

The aforementioned commenter is not the only one showing their frustration with changing policies on marriage and childbirth. “[I’m not married] because the government first told us to marry late and have children late,” another netizen writes: “I’m just being obedient.”

Similar sentiments were also expressed after the one-child policy was canceled, allowing couples, or even encouraging them, to have a second child. “The person who was forced to have an abortion then, is the same person who is pressured to have a baby now,” some people on Weibo said.

With some people joking that the government will arrange things for them anyway, their answer to the marriage question is: “I am waiting for the state to assign me to someone.”

“I am waiting for the state to bring me a handsome man. I’ve been searching for him all over, but can’t find him anywhere,” others say.

Apart from these comments, the most recurring answers to why people are not married yet include the following:

– “Young people doing 996 [working from 9am-9pm, 6 days a week] don’t have time for love and raising children.”

– “Why would I get married, I’m getting along fine by myself.”

– “I can’t afford a house, can’t afford to raise kids, can’t afford to get married.”

– “Get married if you like, stay single if you like, in the end, we’ll all regret it anyway.”

The most recurring and upvoted comments were also the shortest ones: “Because I’m poor.”

Meanwhile, on Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, it seems that some are making a profit out of the dreaded “Why aren’t you married” question. Various sellers are selling phone covers and t-shirts with the question printed on it. The answer, underneath, is loud and clear: “Mind your own damn business.”

Also read: Mirror of Time: Chinese Weddings Through the Decades

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Goodbye 996? Weibo Discussions on Changes in Overtime Work Culture

Beijing made it clear that working overtime is illegal, but netizens are concerned about the realities of changing working schedules.

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Many people are tired of being forced to log long hours, but are also worried about how a national crackdown on ‘996’ working culture could impact their workload and income.

In late August of 2021, China’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security (人社部) and the Supreme People’s Court issued a joint clarification on the country’s legal standards of working hours and overtime pay.

Their message was clear: the practices of ‘996’ (working 9am-9pm, six days per week) and ‘007’ (working 24 hours seven days per week, referring to a flexible working system worse than 996) are illegal, and employers are obliged to obey the national working-time regime.

On Weibo, China’s state broadcaster CCTV published a 10-minute long video illustrating the 10 typical cases of overtime work laid out by the ministry and the top court. The moment was marked as the first time for the state-owned broadcaster to publicly comment on overtime work practices.

The Weibo post pointed out that “striving for success is not a shield companies can use to evade legal responsibilities,” and made it clear that employees have the right to “say no to forced overtime.”

The topics of overtime work and China’s 996 work culture generated many discussions on Weibo, with the hashtag “Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security and the Supreme Court Clarify 996 and 007 Are Illegal” (#人社部最高法明确996和007都违法#) generating over 420 million views on the social media platform.

 
“Without implementation and enforcement, the law is useless”
 

The current labor law in China bars employees from working more than 44 hours a week, and any overtime work must be paid.

Although the 996 practice is technically prohibited by law, many companies still enforce the hours informally.

Many employees revealed online that, although the 996 practice is legally prohibited, they were nevertheless being assigned job tasks that exceeded the prescribed working hours.

“Just finished work,” one Weibo user (@介也没嘛) posted with this picture, showing it’s nearing 11PM.

“I wonder if the workload will decrease after all. If it doesn’t change, it means people will now have to work voluntarily,” one Weibo user commented.

People also indicated that, since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become a new norm. Many companies have moved from office to working at home, making it harder to draw the line between regular working hours and overtime hours.

“What really matters is whether working from home includes overtime hours,” one Weibo user wrote. Many netizens complained that their companies wouldn’t explicitly stipulate a 996 schedule; instead, most of them disguise the overtime hours as ‘voluntary’ work.


Many commenters say it takes more comprehensive legislation and tougher law enforcement to really solve the issue of overtime work.

“These regulations are good, but they are basically impossible to implement. Even if they ban ‘996’ and ‘007’ there is no way to regulate the so-called ‘voluntary work,’” one Weibo user wrote.

Some people said that their companies have various performance assessments and that they feared that refusing to work more hours would make them lose their competitive advantage: “The burn-out (内卷 nèijuǎn, ‘involution’) is severe. It is too difficult for us. I have only one day off during the week and I’m so tired,” one person commented.

 
“We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours”
 

China’s 996 work culture has been championed by tech leaders and denounced by workers for years, and it has become an unwritten standard – not just in the tech sector but also in other industries.

While working long hours has been ingrained in Chinese workplace culture since the early days of the country’s internet boom, it later also started to represent ‘a road to success’ for Chinese tech entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese netizens blame Alibaba’s Jack Ma for praising the ‘996’ work system. In 2019, Ma called the 12-hour working day a “huge blessing,” causing much controversy online. During his talk at Kyiv International Economic Forum, Ma said: “(..) ‘996 is the spirit that I encourage Alibaba people to follow. If you want to have a bright future, (..) if you want to be successful, you have to work hard.”

On another occasion, the tech mogul reportedly said: “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours.”

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group described 996 as a ‘blessing’.

However, after the shocking death of one Chinese delivery man working for food delivery platform Ele.me and the widespread discussions about the ‘996 ICU’ project – which called on tech workers to add names and evidence of excessive hours to a ‘blacklist,’ – the 996 work culture has come under increased scrutiny.

Some people argue that the overtime culture is draining employees and creating an unhealthy work-life balance; others argue that they work for themselves and believe that putting in extra hours will eventually translate to individual success.

While economic growth has slowed down during the pandemic, most companies are persisting with long working hours because they are under pressure to achieve results.

According to an online survey conducted by an influential tech blogging account (@IT观察猿), more than one-third of participants claimed to have one day off per week, and more than one quarter claimed they didn’t have any weekend days off.

 
“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced”
 

Starting from August 1st, ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular short-form video app TikTok, dropped its ‘big and small week’ (大小周) – a schedule that previously required employees to work six days in a row every other week.

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company that has begun to cut back on its long working hours. More and more companies have decided to drop grueling work schedules.

Kuaishou, another Chinese short-form video app company, stopped scheduling weekend work in July. Since early June, Tencent – China’s largest game publisher – has encouraged people to clock out at 6 pm every Wednesday.

Although these changes seem to signal a positive development, there are also many people who do not support the new measures. When Bytedance announced the changes to its working schedule, news came out that one-third of the employees did not support the decision (#字节跳动1/3员工不支持取消周末加班#).

Those relying on overtime pay said abolishing overtime work will cut their take-home pay by around 20%. Indeed, the first pay-out after the new implementation at Bytedance showed an overall drop of 17% in employees’ wages.

“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced,” one Weibo commenter complained.

One trending discussion on Weibo focused on the question “Do companies need to make up for employees’ financial loss after the abolition of weekend work?” Many comments revealed the situation faced by thousands of struggling workers who value free time but value their income more.

Many on Weibo still wonder whether a company that abolishes ‘996’ will come up with an alternative to compensate those employees who will otherwise inevitably lose vital income.

By Yunyi Wang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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