Chinese village caps betrothal gifts at US$2,900 so that ‘leftover men’ can afford to get married

Policy aims to take financial pressure off bachelors and help them find wives

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 4:02pm

A village in northern China is trying to take the financial pressure off bachelors who cannot afford to get married by capping betrothal gifts at 20,000 yuan (US$2,900), a local newspaper reports.

Initially the new policy stated that anyone who spent more than that amount on wedding gifts in the village in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, could face consequences on a par with fraud or even human trafficking charges, Hebei Youth Daily reported on Wednesday.

But after an outcry online, county party officials told the village to change its policy to remove the fraud and human trafficking part.

A village official confirmed that the policy had been toned down, telling The Beijing News on Thursday that the clause had been removed because it had no legal basis, but the cap remained.

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Other village rules include a maximum spend on wedding meals of 260 yuan per table, with alcohol capped at 30 yuan per group and cigarettes at 10 yuan, according to Liang Huabin, an official with Daan sixth village.

He added that the policy had been introduced to help the many unmarried men in the village find wives.

“[These betrothal gifts] can end up costing a household their entire life savings,” Liang was quoted as saying.

He estimated that families in the area earned an average of 20,000 yuan a year as pear growers, but they could be looking at forking out up to 200,000 yuan for a wedding.

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In China, there are an estimated 20 million more men aged under 30 than women after years of the one-child policy and a preference for boys, and many of these “leftover men” live in remote, underdeveloped areas on low incomes.

The betrothal gifts tradition usually requires the groom’s family to give his bride’s family property, a car or cash in exchange for her hand in marriage.

Villagers told Hebei Youth Daily that the value of these gifts had gone up by tens of thousands of yuan in the past six months alone, as more women looked beyond the area for a husband, and there were at least 30 young men in the village who had not been able to find wives.

They said the cap was a good idea, but worried about whether it would work since other villages in the area did not have the same policy, according to the report.

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A county party official told the newspaper that they planned to discuss with nearby villages the possibility of introducing a similar policy.

The official said although the county authorities supported the idea of removing an outdated custom, any policies must be made in accordance with the law, adding that improving the local economy so that young people were more willing to stay there would be a better way to address the “leftover men” problem.