China Has Nearly 35 Million More Single Men Than Women

China's once-a-decade census revealed the country had nearly 35 million more single men than women, and about half of them are within the "marriageable age" range, a government official said this week.

The population data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on May 11 showed the country now has 1.41 billion people, an increase of 0.53 percent from 10 years earlier.

Some of the figures making for more concerning reading for Chinese authorities included the 12 million children born in 2020—down from 14.6 million in 2019—as well the gender gap, which grew by a million since the 2010 census.

The official numbers show China has 723.34 million men and 688.44 million women, accounting for 51.24 percent and 48.76 percent of the population, respectively. It means there are 34.9 million more men than women, said the bureau's spokesperson Fu Linghui, who called the phenomenon the current "reality."

The census sparked a wave of discussion online about the more than 30 million unmarried men in China.

The 34.9 million men are spread among different age groups, Fu said on Monday. Among them are 17.52 million men in the "marriageable age" range of 20 to 40 years old—indicating the age group that is legally allowed (age 22 for men and 20 for women) and expected to marry.

Fu noted that there were many factors affecting marriage. He cited age, place of residence, personal character, education, values and family background.

The gender gap is thought to be a reflection of China's traditional preference for boys, especially during the nearly four decades of the country's "one-child policy."

The family planning policy, which ran from 1979 to 2015, saw about half the country restricted to having one child. In certain cases, exceptions were made for couples who were both only children, while ethnic minorities and residents in rural China were also allowed to bear more children.

Fu said the continuation of China's "two-child policy" and changing attitudes about having children will cause the gender gap to shrink. He pointed to census data showing there were 111.3 boys for every 100 girls born in 2020. The ratio is down from 118.1 to 100 a decade ago.

Among men and women of "marriageable age," the ratio was even closer at 108.9 to 100, Fu added.

China Releases Once-A-Decade Census Data
A woman holds a baby at a local park on May 12, 2021 in Beijing, China. The country has nearly 35 Million more single men than women. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Researchers have noted that the gender gap differs between urban and rural China. In larger cities, more women are marrying later or not at all.

Yang Fan, with the Center for Population and Development Studies at Renmin University of China, said the country has had more boys than girls since the 1980s. He told Beijing News that the phenomenon was more apparent in villages and more rural regions.

Mu Guangzong, a professor at Peking University's Institute of Population Research, told the newspaper that big cities were experiencing a ratio trending toward women.

While there are more men of marriageable age than women in rural China, there are increasingly more city-dwelling older women who have not married, Mu said.

China's seventh national census also highlighted the country's aging population. There are 262.02 million citizens above the age of 60—18.7 percent of the population—compared to 253.38 million children between the ages of 0 and 14, accounting for 17.95 percent.

Fu, with China's statistics bureau, said China was currently in the first of three stages of population aging, the others being 20 to 30 percent and 30 percent of the population above 60 years old, respectively.