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Female customers choose cosmetics at a shopping mall in Shanghai in April. Photo provided to China Daily

Young people in China, especially those from the country"s major cities, are facing an age-old Confucian doctrine, persuading men and women to marry at young ages.

Data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs recently showed that couples married in the first quarter of this year dropped by 5.7 percent year on year to less than 3.1 million. The figures were extremely low in developed cities and regions, including Shanghai, Tianjin, and Zhejiang province.

The number of newly registered marriages slid 29.54 percent compared to five years ago.

"With the ongoing economic and social development, different generations perceive marriage differently," said Lu Jiehua, professor of sociology at Peking University.

"Late marriage and being single are not unusual among the population born in the 1980s or 1990s, as marriage is no longer the only lifestyle choice in a society that is becoming increasingly tolerant," he said.

Why are young people reluctant to get married?

Yu Xian, an auditor in Beijing, complained that the suffocating extra-working hours and the intense competition have left him little time to talk about love, let alone get married.

He also mentioned that he still can"t afford a house until he"s at least 35 years old, which may displease his future mother-in-law.

Xu Shan, an office lady in Shanghai, confessed that the change of lifestyle from a single person to a married one is not an easy transition.

"Marriage will increase the costs of living in a consecutive growth curve, not to mention, the massive cost to have a child - married couples usually want babies," she said.

Along with a car and a house, deciding to get married should be given heavy consideration.

"I don"t care much about age, but I need to find someone who shares the same view on life with me and someone who can communicate with me as a soul mate, because marriage is a once in a lifetime experience," said Lu Zifu from Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, where he owns a house and a car.

Zhai Zhenwu, professor from the School of Social Science and Demography at Renmin University of China, said the shrinking birth rates, higher education, and urbanization have caused the marriage rate to decline.

According to Zhai, the birth rate has continued to drop since 1990. For instance, it dived to 16.75% in 1997 from 21.06% in 1990.

The popularity of higher education among young people has also affected the average age of marriage.

"Many students in my class are 27 or 28 years old and most of them have no plan to get married before graduation," said Wang Jie, who is now studying her Ph.D. degree in Beijing.

Additionally, some experts believe the colossal size of urbanization migration has also hindered the marriage rate, which, however, is happening in many countries.

"Developed countries like the option of divorce," said Shi Zhilei, director from the Demography and Health Research Center at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.

"Whether you"re married, single or getting divorced, people should be respected for their own choices," Shi added.

However, despite free choice and social tolerance, the low marriage rate could lead to a low birth rate and affect China"s demographic structure, especially critical when the country faces an aging society.

Therefore, many experts advise the country to extend marital and maternity leaves, reduce taxation on family units, and stabilize housing prices in first-tier cities, to help alleviate the strain of young people and hopefully, encourage them to get married.