The Rising Chinese Divorce Rate

The Rising Chinese Divorce Rate

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The rate of divorce for the Chinese is increasing at an alarming rate. An estimated 2.87 million Chinese marriages ended in divorce in 2012 alone, a number on the rise for the seventh year in a row as of that year. The upward trend has been the result of several factors, including China's famous one-child policy, new and easier divorce procedures, the growing population of white-collar females with high education and financial independence, and a general loosening of traditional conservative views (especially in urban areas).

Comparing China's Divorce Rate With the World

At first glance, China's national divorce rate doesn't seem worrisome at all. In fact, the United Nations Statistics Division reports that in 2007 only 1.6 out of 1000 marriages ended in divorce in China. However, in 1985, the divorce rate was a mere 0.4 out of 1000.

By comparison, approximately 2.0 out of 1,000 marriages ended in divorce in Japan, while in Russia an average of 4.8 per 1,000 marriages ended in divorce in 2007. In 2008, the U.S. divorce rate was 5.2 per thousand, dramatically down from 7.9 in 1980. What is troublesome is the extremely rapid and seemingly exponential rise in divorce rates. To many, ​China appears to be on the brink of a social crisis in a society where divorce used to be an extreme rarity.

The 'Me Generation'

China's famous one-child policy created a generation of sibling-less children. This policy is extremely controversial locally and worldwide and has been blamed for an increase in forced abortions, female infanticide, and a growing sex ratio imbalance.

In addition to these serious concerns, the products of China's radical family planning policy (the post-1980s generation) is accused of being selfish, apathetic to the needs of others, and unwilling or incapable of compromise. All this is posited to be the result of growing up as a cherished and overly coddled only child without siblings to interact with. The combination of these personality traits in both spouses seems to be a major contributor to strife in many Chinese marriages.

The post-1980s generation is also reportedly extremely impulsive. This impulsive attitude has been theorized to be one reason why Chinese couples today are falling in love very quickly, getting hastily married, and then filing for even hastier divorces. An increasing amount of couples get married and then divorced after only a few months, while in some extreme cases, couples are filing for divorce only a few hours after getting married.

A Change in Procedure

Others point fingers at a recent change in the divorce procedure as the culprit for the drastic rise in divorces. Originally, a couple seeking divorce was required to get a reference from either their employer or a community leader, a humiliating process that persuaded many to stay in a dead marriage. Now, this stipulation is no longer required and couples can quickly, easily, and privately file for divorce.

Urban Social Change

In large cities and other heavily urbanized areas, women have more opportunities than ever before. The standard of education of Chinese women has risen substantially, leading to more prospects for white-collar jobs and the ability to be financially independent. These young working women no longer need to depend on having a husband to support them, removing yet another barrier to getting a divorce. In fact, urban areas have the highest divorce rates in all of China. For example, in Beijing, 39 percent of marriages end in divorce, compared to the national rate of only 2.2 percent of marriages failing.

Especially in urban areas, Chinese young adults are treating romantic relationships much more casually. For example, one-night stands are seen as more and more socially acceptable. Young couples are unafraid to fall hard and fast for each other, rushing into marriage with an almost whimsical attitude heavily laced with unrealistic expectations, leading to marital ​strife and possibly divorce.

While China's divorce rate is still below those of many other countries, what is extremely disconcerting is the seemingly exponential rate at which the national divorce rate is growing. Many believe that divorce is becoming an epidemic in China.

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