AGE-OLD FORMULA

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

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

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.

A man and a woman chat during a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A76
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)
A man and a woman chat during a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A7H
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)
A woman looks at a man during a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A7B
(Reuters/Caros Barria)
A man arrives at a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.     REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A7A
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)
A woman looks at signs showing the personal profiles of people looking for spouses during a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A7F
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)
A man looks at signs showing the personal profiles of people looking for spouses during a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A7G
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)
A woman sits during a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.    REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A7I
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)
A man and a woman chat during a matchmaking event for middle-aged singles and seniors, sponsored by Shanghai's government, in Shanghai November 9, 2013. The event, which drew 30,000 participants last year, started catering for those over 45 to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of divorcees, said Xu Tianli, vice chairman of the Shanghai Matchmaking Agency Management Association, an organiser of the event. Divorce rates in China have risen for seven years in a row. In 2012, year-on-year growth in divorces outpaced the increase in marriages for the first time, according to official data. Rising levels of divorce have not escaped the notice of China's government, which is concerned that broken homes will erode social stability. To mend ailing marriages and encourage senior singles to date, China has introduced a wide range of measures. To match story CHINA-MARRIAGE/SENIORS      Picture taken November 9, 2013.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria  (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTX15A79
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)
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