Lawmakers propose reducing marriageable age to 18 to deal with aging population
Members of China's top legislature proposed reducing the legal age for marriage for both men and women to 18 to deal with the country's aging population.
Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) reviewed two draft sections on marriage and family and inheritance of the civil code in panel discussions at the 11th session of the Standing Committee.
The lawmakers discussed various issues, including reducing the current marriageable age, strengthening and improving the guardianship system, and increasing regulations for post-adoption assessment.
During the review this time, the proposal regarding marriageable age became the central issue and some members of the NPC Standing Committee suggested reducing the age to 18 for both men and women.
China's first marriage law, introduced in 1950, stipulated that the legal age of marriage for both sexes should be 20 years old. The 1980 version raised it to 22 for men and 20 for women to comply with the one-child policy.
However, China is facing a serious problem with an aging population currently. In 2018, the population of China aged 60 and above reached 249.49 million, accounting for 17.9 percent of the entire population. It means China has the largest and fastest-growing aging population in the world, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
China introduced the second-child policy nationally in January 2016 to try to ease the issue, but it has not yet changed the situation.
"The number of marriage registrations in China decreased from 2013 to 2018, and further dropped by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019," said Zhang Sujun, a member of the NPC Standing Committee.
The direct consequences are declining births and a rising aging population. The implementation of the second-child policy did not help much with the issue, as the increase in the number of children due to this policy could not fill the gap, Zhang said.
China's marriageable age should be reduced, Zhang noted. "Although such a change may not alter the current situation directly, it is the right way to reverse the trend."
Zhang stated that the current nutritional conditions, living environment, information adoption and cultural level of young people have been greatly improved, which provides a solid objective basis for reducing the marriage age.
The current marriageable age is 21 for men and 18 for women in the US, Denmark, and Poland; it is 20 and 18 in Switzerland and Vietnam, and 18 for both in many other countries. The most suitable legal age for marriage should be in accordance with the situation of China's current population, and needs to be carefully studied, said Wang Chaoying, another member.
Many participants also suggested that there is no need to differentiate between men and women regarding marriage age, as a unified legal age for marriage reflects gender equality.
Some internet users, however, expressed concerns about the proposals, with some commenting on Weibo that people aged 18 are not mentally mature enough to handle the big issue of marriage and that it may increase the number of divorces.
Some netizens also said that the reason people do not want to get married is not because of the legal age but the huge cost of living.
In 2018, 15.23 million people were born in China, a birth rate of 10.94 per thousand, according to the National Bureau of Statistics in 2019. The number of newborns was down by 2 million from 17.23 million in 2017.
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