China’s Divorce Rate Surges After Coronavirus Quarantine
Sun, January 23, 2022

China’s Divorce Rate Surges After Coronavirus Quarantine


For many people, falling in love or being in a relationship means they’ve found someone they want to spend the rest of their life with. / Photo by Tom Wan via Shutterstock


For many people, falling in love or being in a relationship means they’ve found someone they want to spend the rest of their life with. To some, it is being in the relationship that gives them comfort, knowing that they will never have to be alone. The honeymoon period, first kisses, butterflies, rainbows, and all the other good stuff. But spending too much time with one’s romantic partner can also be a recipe for disaster.


Divorce in China after lockdown

This is likely the reason why divorce filings increased in China as couples emerged from almost two months of coronavirus lockdown. The story of Ms. Wu, a housewife in southern Guangdong province, was featured in Bloomberg to illustrate how marital conflicts during the quarantine led to divorce after the isolation. Wu, who declined to give her full name for privacy concerns, said there were marital irritants when she spent nearly two months with her out-of-work husband. Some of these include too much screen time, too little money, and that child care and household work were not evenly split even if both of them were staying in the house together.

Wu mentions that her spouse was the “troublemaker” in their house. A habit she found annoying in her husband was when he would engage their two kids in play at night when they were supposed to go to bed. After the lockdown, she could no longer endure the marital conflicts so both of them decided to find lawyers to help them file for divorce.


Media reports from several cities in China show that divorce rates increased in March. / Photo by Pormezz via Shutterstock


The need for healthy distance in a relationship

Teresa Newsome, a domestic violence victim advocate and planned parenthood certified responsible sexuality educator, shared that couples believe early in the relationship that spending a lot of time together will bring them closer. Yet, the reality is that it can lead to unhealthy codependency. It causes one to lose sight of themselves and put way too much of their identity into the relationship.

Media reports from several cities in China show that divorce rates increased in March as couples started emerging from the mandated quarantine meant to stop the spread of the COVID-19. Domestic violence cases likewise multiplied. Both Xian and Dazhou cities reported a high number of divorce filings in March and this is expected to cause long backlogs in the country’s government offices. In Miluo city, staff members reportedly did not even have enough time to break to drink water as there were just too many couples lining up to file for divorce. Government clerks are struggling to keep up and continue to process new records every working day.

A divorce lawyer in Shanghai-based Steve Li at Gentle & Trust Law Firm shares how his caseload increased by as much as 25% in March. Before the coronavirus lockdown, the most common reasons clients showed up in his office door is because of infidelity as one had a love affair when the other was not at home, but when the virus hit the country in January, the situation changed. Couples were forced to endure two months being under the same roof with their spouse, sometimes even with their extended family.



Untying the knot

Many couples in China found the situation “too much” as they grew to hate the other person as they were spending more time together. Li added that “people need space” and this applies even to single individuals. Yi Xiaoyan, director of the city registration center, also explained that from trivial matters in the couple’s life, it led to the escalation of their conflicts. Poor communication has likewise caused disappointments in marriage.

The divorce rate in China has been increasing since 2003 when the laws were liberalized in the country. In that year alone, more than 1.3 million people divorced and the numbers rose for 15 years that follow. The divorce rate was at its highest in 2018, the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ statistic shows.

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shared the number of divorces per 1,000 people in China in the following years: 1978 (0.30), 1985 (0.40), 1995 (0.90), 2005 (1.40), and 2006 (1.50).

Countries with the highest divorces per 1,000 people in 2015 include Russia (4.8), Puerto Rico (4.5), Maldives (5.9), United States (3.1), Sweden (2.5), Finland (2.5), Ukraine (3), Georgia (2.4), Cuba (3.2), Lithuania (3.2), Latvia (26), Estonia (2.6), and Cuba (3.2). On the other hand, countries with the lowest divorce rate are Chile (0.1), Colombia (0.2), Guatemala (0.1), Jamaica (0.7), South Africa (0.7), Ireland (0.7), and Mongolia (0.6), among others.

The surge of divorce rate in China after the lockdown is contrary to what Chinese officials hoped--that the quarantine would lead to a baby boom to offset the low birthrate since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and despite the loosening of the one-child policy in the country. Officials have also previously ramped up their campaign on encouraging women to marry and bear kids. In some municipalities, some posters urged couples to support their country by getting busy in the bedroom. The local Family Planning office has posted, “As you stay home during the outbreak, the second-child policy has been loosened, so creating a second child is also contributing to your country.” The result of this campaign, though, will not be evident yet for seven to eight months if we are to count from the start of the lockdown.



Divorce: statistics

Conjugal strife reports have filled Chinese media too. A county near the Yangtze River recorded 162 domestic violence incidents in February. 

In the US, the common causes of divorce are lack of commitment (73%), argue too much (56%), infidelity (55%), married too young (46%), unrealistic expectations (45%), lack of equality in the relationship (44%), lack of preparation for marriage (41%), and domestic abuse or violence (25%). This is according to San Diego-based divorce lawyers Wilkinson & Finkbeiner. Professions with the highest divorce rate are dancers (43%), bartenders (38.4%), massage therapists (38.2%), gaming cage workers (34.6%), gaming service workers (31.3%), and food and tobacco machine operators (29.7%).

China’s case appears to be a warning to the US and other countries that are still in the early stages of lockdown.