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Gender imbalance affects rural single men's marriage prospects,February 27, 2019 Adjust font size:

Age-old gender inequality, especially in rural China, is finally exacting its price.

The pursuit of male births has resulted in a gender imbalance in the countryside. During the country's modernization drive, more women seek for better opportunities outside their hometowns. This is making it hard for young men to find a suitable bride.

The weeklong vacation of Chinese New Year, from Feb. 4 this year, provides the best opportunity for rural young people returning from urban workplaces to seek a spouse.

However, in many villages, the single young men outnumber the available young women by a ratio that can be as high as 4:1.

Xiao Ling, a young woman from south rural Hebei province, said, her seven-day holiday had all been occupied by blind dates arranged by local match makers. During that time, there were always three to four brand new automobiles parking outside her house at daybreak and the male suitors stood in a long line in hope that she would grant them an "audience."

However, like a job interviewer, Xiao Ling could only spare several minutes to talk to those who looked decent, had stable jobs or were stand-outs in one particular profession, and add them on her Wechat account.

Last year, she received 80 to 90 suitors during the Lunar New Year holiday, an average of 10 single young men each day, but still was unable to find her Mr. Right.

According to the latest release of the National Bureau of Statistics, last year, China's male population reached 713.51 million, 31.64 million more than the female figure. However, the gap in rural areas, as a result of gender discrimination, is far wider.

"The lifeline of families ends if they cannot give birth to a son," said a local villager in interview with the weekly magazine Banyuetan. "Besides, families with fewer sons in our village will never have a big say in affairs," the villager added.

Believing sons were the family backbone to support parents especially when they grow old was the mindset that dominated China's agricultural civilization for two millennia. And it still prevails in some rural areas.

Today, young people reaching marriageable age are those born in the 1990s, at least 10 years after China's adoption of the reform and opening up policies. During their time of growing up, the gap between rural and urban areas has widened, encouraging many to flock to the cities in search of better opportunities.

According to Meng Xiangmin, an official from Linzhang county, Handan city, Hebei province, the gender imbalance there has been aggravated in recent years when more than 60 percent of local young women have settled down in various cities above county level. However, 80 percent of the young men returned home to seek a spouse because of their poor educational background and lack of skills in coping with the demands of getting married in the cities.

In a village at south Hebei province, 10 men and seven women out of an entire population of 314 are currently reaching marriageable age. However, all the women have worked out of the village, and none of them intend to return home. Among those young people, only one woman has married, although not in the village.

A rural young man said: "The young women today who have been staying in bigger cities are dissatisfied with the idea of marrying local males."

According to Chang Wenfeng, a retired official from Cheng'an county, Handan city, the best way to overcome this situation is to spread the concept of gender equality.

"Every family should truly understand that daughters are not simply emotional comforts for their parents. They can go far beyond that as key members to support their families," said Chang.

Besides, Zhang Xiaoli, an official from the social security department of Yijing county, Fengfeng Mine Area of Handan, said that, to narrow the yawning gap between urban and rural areas is fundamental to helping single young men suffering from poverty to marry.

Impoverished young men should receive training to gain special skills and professions. Apart from that, they should be encouraged to work in female-labor-intensive sectors to increase the chances to getting acquainted with their female peers, Zhang said.