Nearly 75% of Chinese women want their mate to earn double their salary: survey

A bride and groom showed their marriage certificates at a civil-affairs bureau in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China. Photo: Zuma Press

Men in China looking for a wife may think of themselves as one in a billion, but they’d do well to own property and earn twice her salary if they want to catch her eye.

That’s the upshot of a survey released this week by Chinese dating website Baihe.com, which found that nearly 72% of female respondents wanted future husbands who owned real estate, up from just over 68% in 2012. And nearly three-quarters of the women hoped their future husband earned at least twice what they did, down slightly from 2012.

Chinese women’s preference for partners with property is deeply embedded in the Chinese psyche, said Doris Li, an independent real estate agent in Beijing, reinforced by generations of mothers whispering in their daughters’ ears, she added. Although, young women are earning more, traditional thinking lingers, she added.

So common is this dynamic that economists in China have invented a term — “in-law demand” — to discuss its impact on the real estate market.

Ms. Li said her own mother opposed her younger sister’s marriage because her sister’s fiancé didn’t own a house. “They married anyway and now we don’t talk about it,” she said. “For me, men are about more than property.”

Some 44% of male and 50% of female respondents said it’s important to find a mate with similar height, age, appearance and social standing. Society in China has changed dramatically in recent decades as the nation has grown to become the world’s second-largest economy, widening the wealth-, education- and urban-rural gaps.

Zhou Mengwei, a 21-year-old college student in Beijing, said although she doesn’t consider property or a sizeable income essential in choosing a future husband, she shares her parents’ view that a suitable partner is one who comes from a similar background.

“My family doesn’t want me to marry a farmer or laborer. They think we may have conflicts in the future, and I agree,” the Beijing native said. “I had a boyfriend from the countryside and as time passed, the differences were big and we broke up.”

While looking for a mate can resemble shopping in a supermarket, Ms. Zhou added, this reflects intense competition to find an apartment, good job and financial security, particularly in megacities like  Beijing and Shanghai, she added. “When people are young, they only think that romantic things are important,” Ms. Zhou said. “But as they get older, reality kicks in.”

Chinese also have limited time to nurture a relationship so they tend to focus initially on material criteria, although this can still lead to a meaningful, sustainable marriage, said Tu Ying, a researcher at Baihe.com.

“The ‘supermarket’ marriage is a reflection of materialism, impatience, and ‘money first’ values throughout society,” Ms. Tu said. “But any marriage requires both sides to constantly cherish and maintain it. Therefore, we cannot say that the ‘supermarket’ marriage is bad and will certainly end badly.”

The survey by Baihe.com, which has tracked marriage trends since 2007 according to the China Daily newspaper, was based on 73,215 online and 200 in-person responses. Chen Yiyun, a former Chinese Academy of Social Sciences marriage researcher, questioned the survey’s results, adding that it appeared more designed to garner publicity than advance the field of sociology, a contention the website disputes.

The survey also found 5.1% of men wanted their wives to make at least double their income, up from 2.8% in 2012. It added that 6.7% of men looked for a wife with property without providing a corresponding figure for 2012.

The pressure on young men, particularly those from humble backgrounds living in big cities, to accumulate enough assets to attract a partner can be significant, said Lan Chunyu, a 25-year old doctoral candidate in marketing who is starting an online relationship website.

Demographics in China has also intensified competition among Chinese men for partners, experts say, as sex selection and the one-child policy combined to skew the gender balance in favor of men, a reversal of natural trends.

“Some boys in villages may not find a wife. So some boys have to buy a wife from Vietnam, Thailand, and so on,” Ms. Lan said, adding that the price is around 30,000 yuan ($4,841). “But many of the wives will run away,” she added. Human trafficking is illegal in China.

Women’s preference for well-heeled men with property is a bit irritating, said Hu Zhoumeng, a 22-year old male postgraduate student. “I think it’s a bit unfair that women demand more,” he said. “They should take a more long-term perspective.”


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