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age-old formula

China wants to find love for its millions of unmarried and divorced middle-aged residents

China is hoping match-making can fix its demographic problems.

Not only has the country’s recently reformed one-child policy skewed its population toward the elderly and middle-aged; its divorce rates are also rising. Together, those two trends will increase the burden on the state and China’s younger generations to support an onslaught of older, single Chinese.

About 39% of Chinese couples divorce, compared to half in the US. But that number is rising fast; last year, the number of couples that divorced rose 8% across the country and 14% in Shanghai, the second highest city for divorces, following behind Beijing.

Shanghai’s latest solution, on top of the state’s reforms to the one-child policy, is to pair off older singles. (In theory, older couples can help support each other in the absence of state or family support.) In March, the city launched the “Family Harmony” project where 300 marriage counselors will serve families and answer a 24-hour-hotline. For the unmarried and already divorced, Shanghai holds an annual matchmaking events for older singles. This year, the upper age limit to attend was raised to 60 from 45—though some 70-year-olds managed to slip in as well. Held on Nov. 12, the day after China’s Singles Day, the event drew an estimated 40,000 people.

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A man and a woman stand next to personal ads at a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles in Shanghai. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row.Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Reuters/Caros Barria
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Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Reuters/Carlos Barria

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