updated 10 May 2009, 16:51
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Sun, May 10, 2009
The New Paper
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Recession drives them to look for Mr Right

THE economic downturn seems to have one upside.

Professional Chinese women are being prompted by the world economic crisis to turn their minds to marriage instead of their careers.

This change in mindset is producing a boom in business for China's matchmaking agencies.

Some agencies are reporting a 40 per cent jump in the number of middle-class women registering with them since last September.

But they are also looking for security as much as they are after Mr Right.

One example is advertising executive Qin Yu, 35, who owns an apartment in Hangzhou, a city on China's east coast near Shanghai.
After years of being single and concentrating on her career, she signed up with a matchmaking agency in October.

She said: 'My investments in the stock market dropped a lot (in value) and work hasn't been so busy since the financial crisis. That made me depressed and I thought it was the right time to do something about my personal life.'

She said looks are not important, but her Mr Right should be three to eight years older than her, responsible and caring for his parents, and have no children.

She said: 'He has to have a stable job, like a schoolteacher. That's my first priority.

'Usually, these kind of men are well-educated and don't have bad habits like drinking and smoking.'

Mrs Gong Haiyan, founder and chief executive officer of Beijing-based Jiayuan, China's largest matchmaking agency with more than 17 million members, said Miss Qin is typical of the career women who have been flocking to matchmaking agencies in recent months.

She said: 'The economic crisis has made a lot of women panic. They've discovered that finances and careers can be unreliable.'

There has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of women signing up with Jiayuan since the financial crisis began last September.

Most of them are graduates earning around 36,000yuan ($7,200) annually, far more than than the average annual income of China's city dwellers.

Mrs Gong said most of her clients worked for joint ventures and foreign companies, especially in the media, IT and financial sectors

Increase in members

Hongniang, another matchmaking agency in Hangzhou with more than a million members, has recorded a 20 per cent increase in professional women registering with them in recent months.

The firm's spokesman Cao Lei said: 'Women like to live in a stable environment and have somebody to share the stress of life with.'

Single women are a new phenomenon in China, where women are traditionally expected to be married by the time they are 30.

As more women than men now graduate from universities, there are more financially independent women in the big cities, and many of them find it hard to get a suitable partner.

This increase in single middle-class women also comes despite the acute gender imbalance in China.

The traditional Chinese preference for male children means 119 boys are born for every 100 girls, as a result of selective abortions, a practice outlawed by the authorities but still widespread in rural areas.

Miss Zhu Aijun, 32, an office manager in a foreign firm, said: 'There are a lot of women in my situation. Every time I've been to a matchmaking event, I've noticed there are always more professional women than there are men.'

Miss Qin believes the men are also to blame as many middle-aged men are only interested in young girls in their twenties.

Others say many successful, single women are too picky and will not consider marrying men who are less successful than they are.

Miss Zhu said: 'I can't say I don't care about that. It's okay in the short-term if he earns less than me, but he has to be ambitious.'

But some women are now lowering their sights.

Mrs Gong said Chinese women have now become more realistic since the financial crisis.

She said: 'They've realised that men whose incomes might not be as high as theirs, but with stable jobs and a relatively high social status, like university teachers and engineers, are a much safer option in these times. A lot of very rich men have seen their fortunes drop, or have even gone bankrupt.'

Miss Qin said she did not think she was too picky, although her parents disagreed.

She said: 'I'm not looking for the most excellent man, just someone who is suitable for me.'

This article was first published in The New Paper

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