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May 15, 2012

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Shanghai residents retain a traditional view of life

SHANGHAI'S young people have a traditional view of marriage and family life, with cohabitation and not having children the choice of a tiny percentage, according to a survey result that contradicts what some Chinese sociologists had anticipated.

The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences said its survey of 1,200 city residents aged between 20 and 65, the results of which were published yesterday, showed that only 1 percent were living with their unmarried partners.

Of those below the age of 35, although they were more open to accepting cohabitation, only 2.4 percent were actually doing it.

The survey also found that just 3 percent of those questioned would choose not to have children after they got married, or adopt what is known as a DINKY (double income, no kids yet) lifestyle.

Some Chinese sociologists had repeatedly expressed concern that residents in the country's major cities were becoming increasingly open-minded about cohabitation and some even warned that an unwillingness to get married was "spreading nationwide like an epidemic," said Xue Yali, one of the survey researchers. The DINKY lifestyle was also a frequently discussed topic in the Chinese media in stories reporting the changing attitudes of urban residents.

However, the survey indicates that these changes might be proceeding much less slowly than had been thought.

The rate of cohabitation acceptance among Shanghai residents is much lower compared to some Western countries, according to the survey. The 2.4 percent of residents between 20 and 34 who were living together compared to up to 29 percent in Norway and Denmark, said Xu Anqi, another survey researcher.

The survey found that more than 80 percent of the young age group disagreed with the statement: "It's all right for singles to move in together so long as there's an intention to get married later."

And 73 percent of all the respondents surveyed opposed cohabitation because "it provides less security than marriage."

The rights of unmarried couples are not protected under the Chinese Marriage Law so residents fear property disputes and other losses if they break up with their partners.

Researchers found that a high awareness of the lack of legal support for cohabitation was a major reason for its low acceptance.

The survey also challenged a previous notion that a growing number of young people were considering not having children.

The survey found that just 2 percent of all respondents supported the idea of a DINKY lifestyle, although that rose to 5 percent for those under 35.

Young people who had married were even more traditional in their attitudes to children. Only 2 percent of that group were considering not having children.

"In general, people are getting more open-minded about the DINKY lifestyle. However, it's still the choice of the very few at present," said survey researcher Zhang Liang.

Commenting on the survey results, Hua Zai, a 30-year-old Shanghai resident, said: "The DINKY mode might grant a relaxing life status for a couple in the first 30 years of their marriage. But I believe that afterward, they will gradually come to taste the mounting loneliness and lack of precious emotional comfort caused by the absence of their own children."

He added: "I still strongly believe in the Chinese traditional family value that children are an essential part of family."


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