Strange then, that the myth continues to be promoted (even within the MRM) that because a woman’s ‘peak fertility’ is around the age of 23 – 25, this is the age at which she is most sexually attractive to men. Of course, this fails to take into account the number of fertile years a woman has ahead of her, which is rapidly diminishing even during those supposed ‘peak’ years. Something that is obvious to any man (and his penis) through visual clues of youthfulness, the most important of which is the level of collagen in the skin, which declines from around the age of 16 in females, and the restoration of which is at the center of a multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry. A cosmetics industry that places advertisements in papers such as the Daily Mail, read by middle-aged women, that gloatingly report on ‘sick perverts’ and ‘paedophiles’ who have been jailed for having sex with the teenage girls those female readers would literally kill to look like again.
Over 27? Unmarried? Female? In China, you could be labelled a “leftover woman” by the state – but some professional Chinese women these days are happy being single.
Huang Yuanyuan is working late at her job in a Beijing radio newsroom. She’s also stressing out about the fact that the next day, she’ll turn 29.
“Scary. I’m one year older,” she says. “I’m nervous.”
“Because I’m still single. I have no boyfriend. I’m under big pressure to get married.”
Huang is a confident, personable young woman with a good salary, her own apartment, an MA from one of China’s top universities, and a wealth of friends.
Still, she knows that these days, single, urban, educated women like her in China are called “sheng nu” or “leftover women” – and it stings.Who are you calling “leftover”? Huang Yuanyuan (front) and her colleague Wang Tingting
She feels pressure from her friends and her family, and the message gets hammered in by China’s state-run media too.
Even the website of the government’s supposedly feminist All-China Women’s Federation featured articles about “leftover women” – until enough women complained.
In China, men overwhelmingly outnumber women. The ratio of men of marriageable/dating age (15-30 years old) to every woman is 1.15 — an unusual imbalance that’s created a rat race of bachelors vying for the affections of a limited pool of young women. Many may want to marry, but never will.
Men started outnumbering women in 2002. It has become almost an unspoken prerequisite for bachelors to have enough for a down payment on a home before attracting a wife. Which, in turn, has bred fierce competition among the male population.
“Acquiring wealth becomes far more important,” says Wei, director of the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business at Columbia. In fact, China’s bachelors helped drive its growing housing market. Last year, Wei and other experts published a study that showed up to 48% or ($8 trillion worth) of the rise in property values across 35 major cities is linked to the country’s gender imbalance.
Over the past 10 years, China’s economy has grown about 10% annually. Wei estimates the gender imbalance, on average, contributed 2 percentage points annually during that period.
History suggests the growth has to slow. Typically when income per capita reaches about $17,000, growth on average starts declining about 2% a year. In China, income per capita in 2011 stood at $5,445. It will be some time before it reaches its peak, but growth has already started decelerating. In 2012, GDP growth slowed to 7.8% from 9.3% in 2011 and 10.4% in 2010.
Yet the country’s demographic kink could offset future slowdown, Wein says. Over the next 10 years, the male-to-female ratio will rise to 1.2 men per woman, in part, one of the many unintended consequences of China’s three-decade-old policy limiting couples to one child in a culture where parents overwhelmingly favor males over females.