No place for love

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2006, 12:00am

Love is in the air as a new year approaches. If there is a best time for lonely hearts to meet their other halves, this is it. In the next two months, we will have seemingly non-stop festive celebrations.

After Christmas comes New Year's Eve, followed by the Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day.

Then we will have the Lantern Festival - a traditional time for romance. In short, it is a couple of months of party time and fun.

Despite all this seemingly auspicious timing, many members of the fairer sex who live and work in Shenzhen prefer to spend this time of year in their offices, or in solitude.

As a result, despite its youthful population and colourful nightlife Shenzhen is increasingly developing a reputation as a loveless city.

According to a recent semi-official study, there are more than 200,000 single women aged above 28 among Shenzhen's 5 million permanent residents.

This is despite the fact that the there are more males than females in the booming city.

The city's internet message boards are often filled with laments of single women complaining of how difficult it is to find a reliable husband in this migrant city.

The situation is particularly acute for women in their 30s who have stable jobs and good salaries. It is frowned upon in mainland culture for a wife to earn more than a husband. Many men would feel humiliated by being in such a situation.

Many office women told the institute which conducted the study that they could not find a husband because the suitors were scared off by their salaries.

Even for those who do find love, it is difficult to maintain the relationship in a city full of temptation and change. The divorce rate in Shenzhen is twice the national average and one of the highest in China, according to the government census in 2004. That figure is still rising fast.

Feeling disillusioned, many women prefer to stay single and focus their energies on their work. The study attributed the increasing number of single women in the city to a lack of confidence in marriage and long-term relationships.

Some people are worried by this. At this year's Valentine's Day, a social activist tried to 'rekindle love and romance in Shenzhen' by stationing 10 mobile booths in the city's busiest district for couples to hug and kiss without being watched by passers-by. Not a single person participated.

But not everyone thinks this is a problem. A sociologist points out that staying single is a common phenomenon in big, modern cities where people are less confined by the traditional notion of family and happiness.

Indeed, you can find the same situation in Shanghai, Hong Kong or Singapore.