Chinese women have been delaying wedlock over the past decade and the average age for a woman to marry is now 24, a research report has found.
Since 1990, Chinese women have married between at 21.9 to 22.8 years old and the age was 22.6 in 2000, says a report published by China Youth and Children Research Center, an institution for helping the government set youth policies.
China's economic reform and development has offered unprecedented opportunities for women, who can have many goals to pursue and often are too busy to marry early.
"Today's job market puts higher expectations on one's professional skills. To get a good job, they have to work extremely hard to beat their peers in fierce competition," said Liu Junyan, a research fellow with the center.
"They simply miss out on the prime time for romance and marriage," Liu said.
Others link the delay to the increasingly open society, where sex can be openly talked about and young people no longer need to be married before having a sexual relationship.
"Chinese are becoming sexually aware younger, and more young couples move in together without making the marriage commitment," the report said.
A Beijing survey, cited in the report, shows that 48.2 percent of the 272 young people polled admitted that they had sex before marriage.
The report also pointed out that Internet romance had a negative impact on real-life marriage.
Some have claimed that "a tide" of single people is flooding society, and labeled the phenomenon the "unmarried crisis".
China has seen a trend of delaying marriage twice before over the half century since the founding of the people's republic in 1949. The first was prompted by the 1950 marriage law, which set the minimum age for marriage.
The second, in the late 1970s, was sparked by the return of "educated youth" who were dispatched during the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 to leave the cities for the countryside to learn from the peasants.
(Xinhua News Agency January 11, 2007)