Today The Economist discusses the conflicting views on marriage between younger and older Chinese generations. Younger women in particular appear to receive increasing pressure from their families to marry and marry young, while the women themselves would prefer to wait (and be choosier). The trend goes hand in hand with rising empowerment and better career prospects for women.
What’s happening? Three things are at play here (and were missed by The Economist.)
#1 Marriage is no longer an economic necessity for women. With women earning their own living, marriage becomes a nice-to-have, from formerly a must-have. In this situation, not only is the urgency gone, but different factors govern women’s choices. This is the situation of the young women. While the older generation may still perceive a world of must-have marriages.
#2 Professional women have other things to do. As I pointed out here, many professional, attractive, intelligent women are single at a marry-able age, and those who marry, marry later than the population average. Science says they also have better things to do than the population average. If a date competes with work that is fulfilling, bodes success and a higher income – then the date better be at least as fulfilling, easy-to-present-to-others, and liquid. Of course work and relationships fulfill different needs – but they also compete for the same, scarce resource: time. Professional women have less time and higher demands for relationships, given their alternative options. Both together are likely to keep them single.
#3 In China in particular, women wait because they can. Already in the 1990s, scientists reported skewed sex ratios at birth in China. Now, the gap between the genders is a sizeable ‘gulf’. In this situation, with more men competing for fewer women, the gentle gender determines the rule of the game. And that likely involves waiting for their best bet. On their terms.