More Than 11/11: A Look Into China’s Thriving Singles’ Economy

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Why Is China’s Single Population Rising?

Singles are a growing demographic in China. In 2018, the number of singles in China reached 240 million, with more than 77 million of those singles living alone. That number is estimated to reach 92 million in 2022, particularly given a rising divorce rate in China. In 2019, according to statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, China registered 9.2 million marriages, and 4.7 million divorces. A rising divorce rate, correlated with a lower fertility rates, has caused the government to intervene.

Who Are China’s Singles?

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of people in China that are generally correlated with being single. These are either the elderly or those in their 20s and 30s. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 60% of those aged 80 or older and 50% of those 30 or younger were single. As for gender, men tend to be more commonly single. The legacy of China’s one-child policy and a traditionally-accepted preference for male children has driven a national population crisis in which Guānggùn (光棍, or “bare branches”), a term reserved for single men who do not marry, far outnumber the much-maligned Shèngnǚ (剩女, or “leftover women”).

Catering to a Singles’ Economy

With single men outnumbering single women, the marketing of a “single’s economy” has adapted accordingly. Single men, a by-product of the one-child policy, are more prevalent in the countryside where lower education levels amid higher familial responsibilities may necessitate them staying close to home. More broadly, however, singles are likely to be more highly educated, have greater purchasing power, and more expensive spending habits. This is particularly true of the 7 million single urban women between 25–34, who are among the largest contributors to China’s growth. Businesses are now adapting business models and creating new models based on the assumption of singles’ spending and consuming habits. It has also stimulated growth amongst dating app services, wellness and fitness brands, as well as in the pet supplies industry.

What Are China’s Singles Buying?

While singles purchase many of the same goods as other demographic groups in China, the rising number of singles have particularly lifted a subgroup of industries.

Dating Apps

Dating apps in China have always formed a significant growth market for singles, especially as domestic dating apps gain traction. China’s domestic dating app industry is estimated to reach a total market value of US$1 billion in 2021. Momo and Tantan are the most used dating apps in China, with Momo reaching 33 million active monthly users and Tantan at 360 active monthly users. In 2018, as Chinese dating apps began to consolidate, Momo continued on to acquire Chinese Tinder app Tantan in a deal worth approximately US$600 million. Over a third of dating app users were born between 1995–2000’s, and dating app use in general has spiked at a 38% compounded annual growth rate from 2017–2019.

Wellness and Nutrition

Wellness is an umbrella term that encompasses emotional, mental, nutritional, physical, and spiritual self-care. The industry has a global value of over US$1 trillion, while China’s wellness industry in particular has surged to an estimated valuation of US$70 billion in 2020. Singles have formed a key demographic for the industry as they attempt to shed the negative cultural implications of single life through social images of a healthy, holistic lifestyle.

Looking Forward

More than just a “leftover” portion of the population, China’s singles wield enormous spending power. While industries like dating apps and health and wellness are direct beneficiaries from this demographic, other industries can also cash in on this growing market. As the number of singles in China continues to rise from a multitude of societal and socioeconomic factors, retailers in China would be wise to keep this group in mind.



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