China's "Girls Who Are Left Behind"
Sep 19, 2009
By Matt Yue

China may be leading the global economic recovery, but the country's domestic dating market is sluggish.

"I've been single for four years straight, and I really want to get married," complains Dong Chun, an eligible 28-year-old Beijing resident with a Master's degree.

Dong has achieved significant career success working long hours in her top position with a prestigious media company, but despite her good fortune, she's worried about the future ? specifically, about whom she'll spend it with.

According to the state-run China News Agency, more than 500,000 young women over the traditional Chinese marriage age of 25 are still unhitched in Beijing. This figure is stunning to many Chinese people, who consider raising a family to be the center of life.

The phenomenon has even given rise to some new vocabulary. Officially approved by China's Ministry of Education, the expression "Sheng Nu," which literally means "girls who are left behind," is now part of the lexicon.

Typically, Sheng Nu are well-educated and hold high-paying jobs, but they're staying single much longer than previous generations.

In Miss Dong's case, a yearly salary of almost $12,000 ? twice Beijing's average salary ? and the impressive "Senior Marketing Manager" title make it even harder to snag Mr. Right.

"My ideal person should be someone better than me in every respect," she explains. Dong Chun doesn't consider herself picky; "I just want him to be funny and capable. In anther words, he should be an admirable person."

Dong's not alone. According to an online survey in May by the popular Chinese Web site, 64.2 percent of women said finding the perfect guy was the major obstacle to their matrimonial bliss. Sheng Nu want to walk down the aisle as much as anyone, but this growing class of highly-educated, high-earners also want to get marriage right.

According to a report from the Bureau of Civil Affairs in Shanghai, the average marriage age is 29.6 for woman, which is 0.6 year later than 2007.

"Sheng Nu are always busy with work, barely enjoying a social life," explains Gong Haiyan, CEO of the Century Relationship Dating Agency, which runs a dating Web site currently boasting 18 million members. "They have high standards for a life partner, so they don't want to rush into marriage."

For many Sheng Nu, the pressure to find the right man is not just coming from within. A lot of Chinese parents are getting anxious.

At 29, Beijing office clerk Miss Zhou, who didn't want to give her full name, said she's scared to think about February's Chinese New Year festival, when she usually returns to her village to spend time with her extended family.

"My parents said if I failed to have a boyfriend by the Spring Festival, I'd better not come home," Zhou said.

But even that threat wasn't enough to prod Zhou into seeing just any guy; she still wants the perfect man to walk through her family's front door with her. At this rate, she might miss a few family holidays.