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Unmarried ‘Leftover’ Women Should Seek Rural Men

The director of a Chinese social development think tank recently proposed unmarried Chinese women over the age of 27 — known as “leftover” women or sheng nu in China — should embrace the surplus of single men in rural China to find a husband, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.

“Leftover” women — most of whom reside in Chinese urban centers and are highly educated — should not “feel afraid to go and live in rural villages,” according to Wu Xiuming, the deputy secretary-general of the Shanxi Think Tank Development Association, a non-governmental organization in central China specializing in social development research. He further suggested that Chinese government officials encourage urban women to migrate to rural areas to find husbands by offering programs that incentivize the move.

Wu and other Chinese social development researchers have suggested the matchmaking scheme as part of an overall push for the Chinese government to address a worsening social crisis in China caused by a decades-long gender imbalance. The gender imbalance is rooted in China’s only recently defunct one-child policy, which the Communist Party of China (CPC) implemented in 1979 in an effort to control China’s then-rapidly growing population. CPC authorities relaxed the policy, which encouraged selective abortions for females in favor of the preferred male sex, in late 2015 to allow families to have up to two children. Nearly four decades of the scheme’s enforcement severely warped China’s gender demographics, producing one of the most unbalanced sex ratios in the world.

China’s population today counts roughly 30 million more men than women, or 114 males for every 100 females, according to the international data provider Statista. The global average sex ratio at birth is about 105 males for every 100 females, according to the World Health Organisation.

China’s gender imbalance is most acutely felt today in the country’s rural areas; women have increasingly abandoned rural communities in recent years for urban centers to pursue educational and career opportunities. The exodus of women from rural villages has left men in the communities with limited marriage prospects. These men are likewise referred to as “leftover men,” or sheng nan.

“The gender structural problem should be addressed as soon as possible. For example, [the government should] train rural leftover men on vocational skills and transport them to regions or industries with a high density of women,” Liu Xuan, a 26-year-old migrant worker from rural Dancheng county in Henan province, told the Xinhua Daily Telegraph last week.

Liu said he had gone on ten blind dates since the age of 19 in his quest to find a wife but had yet to secure a bride.

“Boys in our village have to queue up for blind dating, but girls can be picky,” Liu told the newspaper, a daily publication of China’s official state press agency, Xinhua.

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