The decline in the number of people in China getting married for the first time has been welcomed by some younger Chinese, who signalled their growing reluctance to tie the knot . They said the increasing costs of marrying and raising a family, and changes to the law to make it harder to get divorced , all acted as deterrents. 7 ways China can boost its birth rate The number getting married for the first time dropped to 11.6 million last year, almost 700,000 down on the previous year, according to the China Statistics Yearbook 2022. This was well down on a peak of 23.9 million in 2013. This downward trend is likely to be mirrored by a further fall in birth rates, which reached a record low of 6.77 births per 1,000 people last year, as the population fell for the first time in six decades, according to official statistics. Although the marriage figures were first published in December, a report about the statistics became the most searched item on the social media network Weibo on Wednesday – a time when most people were visiting family during the Lunar New Year holiday. Posters hailed the “wise” decision made by young people, and said they too would not be getting married. One user wrote: “Marriage is like a gamble. The problem is that ordinary people can’t afford to lose, so I choose not to take part.” One woman attributed the phenomenon to the 30-day cooling-off period for divorce seekers introduced in January 2021, with the aim of improving social stability. The controversial measure led to a dramatic fall in the divorce rate but critics have said it disadvantages women, particularly those without an independent source of income. “A divorce seeker has to wait for 30 days after making an application, and longer if the partner refuses to get divorced,” she wrote. “Not to mention many people’s divorce requests were not approved even when they were suffering from cheating and domestic violence. Getting married is like going to hell.” “I can’t believe there are still over 10 million people getting married in a year,” commented another Weibo user. ‘Forced marriage is painful’: bride’s wedding breakdown in China goes viral Dong Yuzheng, director of the Guangdong Population Development, told Yicai news that young people face increasing life pressures, and cannot afford the burden of getting married, which traditionally involves buying a house and raising children. Moreover, while many Chinese parents are still keen on pushing their children to get married, young people themselves prefer the freedom of single life, according to Dong. The average age of people who get married for the first time also increased significantly, from 24.89 in 2010 to 28.67 in 2020, according to the China Population Census Yearbook 2020. A 2021 report published by iiMedia Research also highlighted growing numbers of people consciously identifying themselves as celibate. ‘No rewards in love’: woman, 32, trying to have a baby dates 100 men in a year Four per cent of 3,900 single respondents between the age 20 and 45 identified themselves as “steadfast celibates”, with another 21 per cent describing themselves as “less-determined celibates”. Most of the self-declared celibates were women over 30, who were better-educated with a higher income in first-tier cities, according to the report.