Lockdown effect in China: Divorce cases increase, marriage registrations decline

The reasons for this are many, ranging from the financial issues due to the closing of industries to the ever-present problem of non-sharing of household burden

Certificate of divorce in China
Certificate of divorce in China

Bihu Chamadia

As soon as there was a visible decline in the number of reported cases of Coronavirus in China, the rules of lockdown were eased and many government offices started working normally. While China tries to pull itself out of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been another outbreak in the country: the rising cases of divorces. The reasons for divorce range from infidelity to non-sharing of household burden to financial issues.

Pandemics catalyse changes in society and social institutions. Marriage as a social institution in China has been facing challenges since many years. According the Ministry of Civil Affairs, there has been a continuous decline in the number of marriage registrations while there has been a rise in the rate of divorce. China announced a nationwide lockdown on January 23 to combat the Coronavirus outbreak.

Text of agreement of divorce in Chinese
Text of agreement of divorce in Chinese

After the lockdown was lifted, the Marriage Registration Offices of many districts of the Xi’an city of Shaanxi province received a record number of divorce cases. According to different local Chinese sources, The Marriage Registration Office in Beilin district recorded 14 divorce cases in a single day. Similarly, in Yanta district, the divorce rate had surged to the point where the Marriage Registration Office did not have vacancy till March 18 this year. The number of divorce appointments that the Marriage Registration Office in Xiqiao receives stands at four per day and there was no vacancy for new appointments till the end of March.

In various districts of Kunming city, Yunnan province, the story was similar. According to a Chinese local newspaper Chun Cheng Wan Bao, in Wuhua district, till March 24, the total number of divorce case appointments were 201. In the Guandu district, reports came out that the number of divorce cases were much higher in comparison to those reported last year. The Guandu Marriage Registration Office started functioning normally from March 2 and till March 25, a total of 208 cases of divorce had been filed. In Chenggong district till 3:00 pm, March 25, the number of registered divorce cases were 93. In Xishan district, the number of divorce cases registered at the Marriage Registration office till march 24 stood at more than 200.

In Sichuan province, various cities witnessed a similar trend. In the city of Dazhou, the head of the local marriage office stated that the number of divorce cases has surged to the point that they were fully booked till the end of March. According to Chinese weekly newspaper Kan Zhongguo, in Dongxing district of Neijiang city, the Marriage Registration Office had registered a total of 182 cases till March 10.

The reasons for this are many, ranging from the financial issues due to the closing of industries to the ever-present problem of non-sharing of household burden.

The trend of remaining unwed is increasing in China with around 200 million people being single in 2016. The rate of divorce has also being seen an upward trend. Even though increase in divorce cases is a common trend in China after the spring break, according to the reports compared to last year there has been a surge of at least 10-20% this year. The reason for it is majorly cited as the quarantine period.

Marriage as an institution in China has a major political significance - the initiation of one-child policy to relaxing the policy in 2017 and encouraging couples to bear a second child. The ageing population of China is a matter of concern for the Chinese authorities and the ever-increasing divorce rates can be a major problem for a decreasing working population in a country, which survives on it. Interestingly, in the case of Wuhua district, more than 90 people who applied for divorce were single child of their parents.

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