China is hoping to encourage marriages and boost birth rates by cracking down on the custom of betrothal gifts.
The initiative follows a January report from China’s National Bureau of Statistics revealing that the country’s population fell from 1.413 billion in 2021 to 1.412 billion in 2022, the first significant decline since 1961, the last year of the Great Chinese Famine.
Authorities have cited the growing costs of marriage amid an economic downturn as one of the reasons why fewer people are getting married, with betrothal gifts exacerbating this trend.
Also known as “caili,” or bride price, betrothal gifts are payments made by a prospective groom to a bride’s family in the form of cash, jewelry, cars and even real estate to show wealth and sincerity.
Based on a 2020 survey by Tencent News, the tradition is practiced in nearly 75% of Chinese marriages.
Local governments are currently implementing the crackdown in response to the Department of Population Surveillance and Family Development’s call to take “bold and creative steps” to encourage births.
In Beijing, the betrothal gifts have long been discouraged by local authorities.
In the town of Daijiapu, Jiangxi province, 30 single women signed a pledge with local authorities to refuse expensive betrothal gifts.
The local government of Hebei province has also started banning expensive betrothal gifts and vulgar wedding games as part of its efforts to reform marriage customs.
Wang Pei’an, deputy director of the China Family Planning Association, also urged the government to provide more incentives around employment, medical care, social security and housing that could encourage people to start families.
Wang highlighted the importance of providing such incentives in promoting marriage and children as “the level of maternity protection [in China] is still very low.”
Some Chinese cities have since begun offering such incentives, such as the granting of a 30-day marriage leave for employees.
In Hangzhou, parents who give birth to a third child are even given a $2,900 grant.