Category Archives: left-over women

“Left-over women” in China

CBS news recently highlighted a growing issue in China: successful working females who are still single by age 30 are being labeled “left-over women”. The term has been officially adopted by the government and has clear perjorative implications. According to the CBS piece, Chinese men want to marry younger women who they consider to be more subservient. The irony is that as a consequence of the one child rule  introduced in 1978, many Chinese parents went to great lengths to have sons rather than daughters, so the pool of women  today is far outnumbered by men. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be at least 30 million more men than women in China.

A Chinese blogger (Offbeat China) describes these so-called “left-over women” as having “three highs”: they are highly educated, highly paid and highly independent. The blogger goes on to say:

“The age threshold of being a leftover women keeps lowering in recent years. It used to be 30 years, now 25. But sometimes will find girls around their early 20s claiming that they are leftover women. There are also different hierarchies of leftover women. Single women between 25 and 27 are the “fighters” (剩斗士, sheng dou shi), meaning that they still have the courage and energy to keep looking for true love. Leftover women between 28 and 31 are the “doomed to be left” (必剩客, bi sheng ke, pronounced the same as Pizzahut in China), meaning that their chances of being ever married is very low and they are oftentimes too busy working to land a husband. Those between 32 and 36 are “leftover fighting Buddha” (斗战剩佛), meaning that they survive the cruel professional world but still remain single. Women of 36 and older are “leftover goddess” (齐天大剩).”

Many of these successful women say they would rather remain unmarried than marry someone who is not their equal. Whether a spoof or real, in this Youtube video, a  young woman sings about the situation. The lyrics say “if you have no house, no car and no money in the bank, don’t think of marriage with me!”

This phenomenon is more common in urban areas in China where the best educated women making high salaries tend to live. It is also an issue in other Asian countries such as  Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. Last year the Economist reported that about a third of Japanese women in their early 30s and more than 20 percent of Taiwanese women in their late 30s remained unmarried. At least half those women will never marry. In Singapore, 27 percent of college-educated 40- to 44-year-old women were single.

How this will all play out remains to be seen. Let us know your thoughts by commenting here. Thanks!


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