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Thursday, 21 February 2013

China's 'leftover women', unmarried at 27

Over 27? Unmarried? Female? In China, you could be labelled a "leftover woman" by the state - but some professional Chinese women these days are happy being single.

Huang Yuanyuan (front right) and a fellow "leftover" colleague, Wang Tingting, at their radio station in Beijing
Who are you calling "leftover"? Huang Yuanyuan (front) and her colleague Wang Tingting

Huang Yuanyuan is working late at her job in a Beijing radio newsroom. She's also stressing out about the fact that the next day, she'll turn 29.
"Scary. I'm one year older," she says. "I'm nervous."
"Because I'm still single. I have no boyfriend. I'm under big pressure to get married."
Huang is a confident, personable young woman with a good salary, her own apartment, an MA from one of China's top universities, and a wealth of friends.
Still, she knows that these days, single, urban, educated women like her in China are called "sheng nu" or "leftover women" - and it stings.
She feels pressure from her friends and her family, and the message gets hammered in by China's state-run media too.
Even the website of the government's supposedly feminist All-China Women's Federation featured articles about "leftover women" - until enough women complained.
State-run media started using the term "sheng nu" in 2007. That same year the government warned that China's gender imbalance - caused by selective abortions because of the one-child policy - was a serious problem.
National Bureau of Statistics data shows there are now about 20 million more men under 30 than women under 30.
"Ever since 2007, the state media have aggressively disseminated this term in surveys, and news reports, and columns, and cartoons and pictures, basically stigmatising educated women over the age of 27 or 30 who are still single," says Leta Hong-Fincher, an American doing a sociology PhD at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Census figures for China show that around one in five women aged 25-29 is unmarried.
The proportion of unmarried men that age is higher - over a third. But that doesn't mean they will easily match up, since Chinese men tend to "marry down", both in terms of age and educational attainment.

"There is an opinion that A-quality guys will find B-quality women, B-quality guys will find C-quality women, and C-quality men will find D-quality women," says Huang Yuanyuan. "The people left are A-quality women and D-quality men. So if you are a leftover woman, you are A-quality."

From BBC News


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