Bachelors and single women scouring the marriage market in Shanghai for spouses will find the going a bit easier, at least when it comes to matchmaking agencies, when new rules governing such bureaus come into force later this month.
An estimated more than 360 matchmaking firms will be reduced to a mere 60, the Shanghai Marriage Management Department said, adding that about 300 illegal agencies will be banned.
Nearly 90,000 couples get married every year in Shanghai, among whom a considerable number get to know each other through marriage matchmaking companies.
For instance, the Good Luck Marriage Matching Co. at the Everbright Exhibition Center, one of the first 12 legally licensed marriage matching companies since July 1997, had more than 3,200 registered citizens in the last four years, among whom, 1,000 found their life partners, manager Xu Jian revealed.
"However, some illegal agencies have been ripping off clients by using hired dates, who later refuse to marry their 'would-be partners.' This kind of cheating is playing with the clients' emotions," said Zhou Jixiang, the director of the Marriage Management Department.
The new regulations aim to standardize the matchmaking companies.
According to the rules, the manager of such firms should have a junior college degree or higher and staff should be trained professionals.
"In this trade, which is quite different from other businesses, we believe that a high-quality staff is essential to provide good service," said Zhou.
The rules also suggest that the companies and the clients should sign a contract, listing among other things the number of candidates to be introduced to the clients for their fees.
Good Luck, as the first model agency, charges 500 yuan (US$60) for young citizens, 400 yuan for middle-aged people and 350 yuan for the elderly.
Among other specifications, the rules state that the company's working area should be more than 50 square meters and registered capital no less than 10,000 yuan.
"The illegal firms should disband on their own, or they will be punished with fines up to 3,000 yuan," said Zhou.
The names of the qualified bureaus will be published in newspapers after the new rules are enforced.