Chen Yu, 35, a single woman from Guangdong province, is used to friends worrying about her delay in starting a family: "My parents and relatives are anxious and think I should have a family at my age. A lot of people think that."
In China, where property prices have soared, not owning a home means some people can't get married. Ms Chen has an apartment in the city but says: "Being single gives you freedom and more time. I'm not tied down to who I'm going to be with or where I'm going. I have yet to meet a man who would give it all up for him."
Ms Chen is not alone. A 2021 survey in China found that 43.5 percent of unmarried female respondents did not want to get married because they feared it would reduce their quality of life, said Maria Malmsten, marketing director of The Hong Kong-based Consulting firm Beau Sun Xuan. Meanwhile, 53.6 percent of the men surveyed said the main reason they are single is that they believe they lack the financial security to support their family.
While some are reluctant to get married, some Chinese women say they will consider marriage if they decide to have children. Malmsten says having children out of wedlock is still not accepted by most people in China.
Zhao Qi, 31, has been with her boyfriend for more than five years and they now live in a 90-square-meter apartment in Kunming. "I don't think marriage is necessary," she said. "For the most part, we only think about marriage when we want to have children, and it's hard to say if you're financially ready." Chinese media estimate that the cost of raising a child through university in big cities such as Shanghai is about rmb1.99m.
Ultimately, China's low marriage rate may not be that different from the problems faced by most other countries, especially those that have also experienced rapid urbanization. From the 1950s to 2021, the average age of newlyweds in the United States rose from 20 to 28 for women and from 24 to 30 for men, according to World Bank data.