It was one of those midnight musings, so common during adulthood, when the regrets and triumphs of our lives become vibrant characters dancing in our minds.
Liu Fang wrote a simple statement on Weibo that read: “What I regret most in my life is getting married and having a kid. How wonderful to just be alone!” Her post captured an increasingly common reality in China, where many people, primarily women, are questioning the institution of marriage itself.Liu, 38, has been married for seven years and has a six-year-old son. When she first got married, she expected her happiness to be doubled and her sorrow halved, she said in an interview.
But the Shanghai woman, a white-collar employee at a financial data firm, said: “It turned out to be work tripled. The work in the office, the chores at home and the childcare work; I’ve been thinking about divorce all the time.”
Liu’s experience of being responsible for childcare and housework while maintaining a job is a common reason for unhappiness in a marriage. But so is increasing awareness of domestic violence against women and unfavourable public policies, such as the recently instituted one-month “cooling off period” for couples seeking a divorce.
While experts can debate what is causing such disillusionment, there is no debate that woman are increasingly unhappy in marriage, according to a recent survey.
Last year, almost 20 per cent of married women said they regret getting married, compared with 12 per cent in 2017 and 9 per cent in 2012, the annual China Beautiful Life Survey found.
Only about 7 per cent of men said they regret getting married.
The survey is jointly conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, China Post Corporation, and the National School of Development at Peking University. It is issued to 100,000 households across China by mail.
China has witnessed a steadily rising number of divorces and falling number of marriages in the past decade.The divorce-to-marriage ratio, or divorces as a percentage of marriages, was slightly above 20 per cent in 2009. In 2019 it hit 50 per cent, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
The ratio dropped in 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic, but still remained high at above 45 per cent.
And most often it was the wife who initiated the break-up. According to data from the Supreme People’s Court, more than 73 per cent of divorce cases heard by all courts around China in 2017 were brought by women.
The government also appears aware of rising divorces, and on January 1, 2021 it implemented a law that requires couples to go through a 30-day “cooling off period” before they can complete the split. At the end of 2020, that impending law resulted in a rush of divorces so couples could avoid the cooling-off period.
In a survey by China Central Television (CCTV) last year, nearly 47 per cent of Chinese men said they took part in housework before getting married, compared with 46 per cent of women. But the balance switched after marriage, with slightly above 46 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women saying they did chores.