Two tourism companies in China announced they will offer single women employees over age 30 an eight-day “dating leave” for the lunar new year next month, the South China Morning Post reported Monday.
The announcement followed the Chinese government’s revelation that 2 million fewer infants were born to Chinese parents in 2018 than in 2017, the third year of marked decline since Communist Party leader Xi Jinping announced it would be legal for parents to now have two, but no more, children. The “two-child policy,” replacing decades of strict enforcement (through forced abortion) of a one-child policy keeping the population low, has apparently done little to entice couples to become parents.
A critical social issue that China faces with increasing its birth rate is the disproportionate number of men in the population compared to women, a product of the one-child policy. Traditionally, many Chinese parents would prefer sons to daughters, resulting in routine abortion of healthy female children. China now currently has an estimated 34 million fewer women than men.
Hangzhou Songcheng Performance and Hangzhou Songcheng Tourism Management, the corporations the South China Morning Post highlights, operate theme parks, theatrical performances, and other entertainment venues. An officer from one of the companies noted that, because of this, many of the women at the company work in the entertainment field, which often requires irregular work hours and extra practice. To help them find partners, the companies will offer them an eight-day vacation for the upcoming Lunar New Year in early February.
“The ratio of men to women in our company is about the same,” the Post quotes Hangzhou Songcheng Performance human resources manager Huang Lei explaining in Chinese-language media. “[But] women employees mostly work in internal functional departments and some are show performers … some female staff have less contact with the outside world.”
The company’s directors believe, Huang elaborated, that women who were more fulfilled in their personal lives would be better workers. “Therefore,” he concluded, “we hope to give more leave to female staff, to give them more time and opportunities to be in contact with the opposite sex.”
The initiative appears to have been the idea of the Hangzhou Songcheng companies, though if successful could see itself spread through the Communist Party. Private corporations exist in China in name only, typically either officially belonging to the Communist Party or managed by loyal members of the Party. The Communist Youth League already attempted to provide a dating service in mid-2017, though the publication of today’s birth statistics indicates it was not particularly successful.
On Monday, China’s state-run newspaper Global Times revealed the nation’s 2018 birth statistics, which showed an alarming drop from the year before and cemented the failure of expanding the right of Chinese people to legally procreate as a means of enticing population growth. China saw the birth of 15.23 million infants that year, compared to about 17 million in 2017 and 18.5 million the year before. The government first allowed couples to legally have a second child, but no more, in 2015. The 2018 number is the lowest since 1961. The one-child policy took effect in 1979.
“The sharp drop by 2 million means that China’s population has entered a fast-shrinking phase from 2018, which comes earlier than many experts predicted years ago,” a Chinese demographics expert is quoted in the newspaper as saying. The Global Times notes that, contrary to what actually happened, Communist Party experts predicted that births would increase by at least 790,000 between 2017 and 2018.
The Communist Party’s main concern with population decline, as explained in the Global Times, is that reducing the number of working people in the country will make it less appetizing for international corporations as a manufacturing venue. China’s need to provide low-paid, and sometimes unpaid, labor to international corporations also dovetails with the desire to see a larger population of men in the country, who can typically work longer hours and carry heavier weight. While a key economic concern, it is at odds with the need to have a larger population of women to turn around the decline in live births.
Women, the Global Times adds, are also avid consumers, meaning the more women in China, the more demand power that China can have over companies seeking to sell their products.
“They’re keen to travel abroad, buy healthcare products, invest in gold and acquire housing,” the Times notes. “China is in the midst of a boom in outbound tourism, and it’s people like the dama [middle-aged women] and the rising ranks of retirees who have contributed a lot to tourism growth.”