Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.
- Mae West

Many women in China are now following in the footsteps of other European and Asian countries, and either delaying marriage or foregoing marriage altogether. Traditionally, Chinese women have looked at marriage as a means of improving social status and a method of security. In today’s business culture in China, Chinese women are, more than ever, seeking independence and wanting to progress in their careers.

According to a census analysis by Wang Feng, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, an estimated seven percent of college-educated women in Shanghai remain single at age 45—"a significant change from the past," he emphasizes. Wang calculates that in urban China the number of never-married women ages 25 to 34 is about 7 million (Bloomberg Business). These statistics mark a definite change in the attitudes of female executives in China. The statistics suggest that women in China regard marriage and their career as two separate life choices, and therefore marriage to them means having to put their career on hold in place of their domestic lives.
Equally, in previous years ‘hypergamy’ has been practiced by Chinese women. This is when a woman marries to improve either her social or financial status. However, with more women than ever joining the workforce in China, more women gaining higher education and more women putting an emphasis on their career, this practice has been declining in recent years. In the same way, women in China are less likely to marry someone with a lower income than themselves, and this seems to be creating an environment where women are consciously either opting out of marriage altogether or marrying much later in life.

Moreover, this is producing a generation of female executives in China with large amounts of disposable income and this in turn is presenting huge marketing opportunities for all kinds of corporations. In the last decade alone, an entirely new sub-economy has developed with Asia. The female executive has a huge buying power in her own right and large amounts of disposable income to spend on products for her own use. The single female market in China now means big business for companies who are looking to diversify, or enter the market in China. Overall, women in China are becoming more powerful figures in the workplace, have more buying power than ever before, and they are becoming an economy unto themselves.

This article was written by Helen Langley of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

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