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March 1, 2014

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Cross-border marriages are on the decline

Drop attributed to changing economic situation, pursuit of quality in marriages

Hu Min

A report released by the city’s civil affairs authority found the number of cross-border marriages involving local Shanghainese in 2013 dropping, but recording a sizeable jump in inter-provincial marriages.

The Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau report also found that most Shanghainese were marrying at a later age compared to 2012.

There were 2,054 cross-border marriages registered in Shanghai last year, down 6.42 percent from 2012. It involved locals marrying people from 71 countries and regions, with the United States, Japan and Australia topping the list.

“Unlike before, marrying a foreigner now no longer guarantees wealth, immigration benefits and a happy marriage. People are now pursuing quality in marriage,” said Chen Zhanbiao, director of the marriage registration division of the bureau.

The city has seen a decline in marriages involving expatriates since 2000, with last year reporting the biggest drop, Chen said.

A total of 417 couples in which one partner was an expatriate or from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan divorced last year, up 4.25 percent from a year earlier.

The divorce numbers have also been rising for several years, Chen pointed out.

“It shows that locals have a stronger marriage sense and know what they want,” Chen told Shanghai Daily.

Inter-provincial ties surge

In 2013, 147,820 couples with at least one Shanghai partner tied the knot, an increase of around 4,000.

Among them, 55,373 involved inter-provincial marriages, a stunning 10.11 percent jump from 2012, and accounting for 37.99 percent of domestic marriages last year.

Shanghai’s figure of inter-provincial marriages is among the highest nationwide, Chen said.

There was a 4.1 percent dip in inter-provincial marriages in 2012 compared with 2011.

The report said more Shanghai men were marrying out-of-town women than Shanghai women tying the knot with men elsewhere from China.

People from Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang provinces topped the list of inter-provincial marriages, according to the report.

“In the past, Shanghainese only married people from neighboring cities, but now they are marrying people from as far as Tibet,” Chen said.

He said it was because of an influx of people from outside the city who stay and work in Shanghai.

The bureau earlier said the number of people reaching marriageable age was on the decline in the city, but the rising number of inter-provincial marriages offset the decline.

Chen predicted the number of marriages would continue to rise in the following years.

Parents worry as women, men delay tying the knot

The average age for first marriage for women rose to 28.19 years and 30.17 years for men last year, which was up 0.89 and 0.17 years respectively from 2012, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau said.

The nationwide average — with men marrying at 25 and women at 23 — is deemed late by many. Women in their late-20s and men in their mid-30s are sometimes referred to as “leftover” people.

The growing number of unmarried, well-educated people, particularly women, has  been a concern of many parents.

“The marriage concept among locals has changed as people no longer believe marriage is the only choice to happiness or a late marriage would reduce the quality of marriage,” said Chen Zhanbiao from the bureau.

Local women, particularly those with a successful career, seem to have difficulty in finding their “Mr Right” due to high expectations.

They are also unwilling to compromise, choosing instead to delay their marriages.

Shanghai’s fast pace of life and strong work pressure have also worsened the situation.

Men have to meet certain criteria such as owning an apartment and a car, which is often considered a prerequisite for marriage.

Colin Wu, a 29-year-old engineer, said he and his 27-year-old girlfriend are busy searching for an affordable apartment in the city.

“We have reached an understanding between us of renting an apartment as a temporary solution. We thought of buying an apartment after two to three years, but my mother-in-law insists that I buy an apartment not far from my girlfriend’s place of work before we get our marriage certificate. It is a desperate situation,” he said.

In many cases, dating couples break up over the demanding financial requirements.

Meanwhile, the divorce numbers have also gone up. A total of 60,825 couples with at least one Shanghai partner divorced in 2013, the largest jump in recent years. 

Those between 30s and 40s accounted for the biggest proportion of divorcees, followed by people between 40 to 50.

Incompatibility, financial difficulties, extramarital affairs, family disputes, sex and differences in opinion about children’s education were among the main reasons for splitting up, the report said.

But marriage experts said a rush of people seeking a divorce to escape paying taxes on their second homes, and increasing instability among those born after 1980 were the real reasons.


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