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Can Reducing Marriage Age Promote Fertility?

Reducing the legal age for marriage to 18 may not increase the fertility rate; other measures will be required to incentivize urban residents to wed

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Mar.21

The minimum legal marriage age for men and women should be reduced to 18, said Zhang Guogang, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. This reduction could help optimize China's population structure, as well as deal with other pressing issues such as the aging population and pensions. But Guo Momo, a commentator on news site View.news.qq.com argued that just reducing the marriage age will not be enough to fix the fertility rate.   

Those who support a reduction in the marriage age say that China is already a low-fertility country, and it is time to reverse the trend. Allowing younger legal marriage may also reduce the abortion rate. According to data from China's health authorities, there are some 13 million abortions every year, and the rate of repeat abortions is 55.9 percent. More younger women are having abortions than ever before.    

Guo argued that reducing the minimum legal marriage age will not promote fertility. Already, an increasing number of young people are unwilling to have children due to intense pressure over their work and lives and the high cost of bringing up a child. Age is not the dominant reason for China's lowered fertility rate.

Some worried that a reduction in the marriage age would encourage early marriage and exacerbate urban-rural differences, as rural dwellers tend to marry and have children earlier already. This means they may lose opportunities and lack enthusiasm to move to other places and fight for what they want in life.  

Guo said that as rural dwellers tend to marry earlier anyway, urban residents should be given more incentives to get married.