THE divorce rate in China has plunged by 70 per cent, with a new “cooling off” policy said to be behind the dramatic fall.

“Cooling off”?
According to the new law that came into force in January, Chinese couples looking to divorce must first complete a mandatory month-long "cooling off" period to reflect. They must then apply again if they still feel the same. If they don’t show up for two appointments between 30 and 60 days after applying, their application is cancelled. 

What’s behind the law?
The Communist Party of China introduced the legislation in a bid to reduce rising divorce rates. Last year, around 4.15 million Chinese couples got divorced; in 2003, it was 1.3 million. 

The reasons for the rise…?
A variety of issues, including the increasing autonomy of women in China, as well as a growing intolerance of domestic abuse and extra marital affairs, along with reduced stigma.

Officials wanted to stem the tide?
China’s rulers are concerned by a slowing birth rate, an ageing population and a declining marriage rate. Getting young people to have babies is seen as key to ensuring social stability and avoiding any risk to Chinese Communist Party rule. "The decline in the marriage rate will affect the birth rate, which in turn affects economic and social developments," Yang Zongtao, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said last year.

So far?
In the first quarter of 2021, just 296,000 couples got divorced, down 72% in comparison to 1.06 million in the same period the year before and down from 1.05 million in the previous quarter, according to data from China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Critics are concerned?
The “cooling off” introduction sparked a national debate over state interference in private relationships, the infringement of personal freedoms and the risk of a rise in domestic violence by making it harder for abused women to leave their partners, although it is not supposed to apply to cases involving abuse. Critics feel divorce has been made too difficult. One user on China’s social media site, Weibo, wrote: “If you try all means to obstruct it, of course it dropped.”

The government say…
…the period prevents “impulsive” divorces.

The “cool off” applies to all?
Earlier this month, it emerged one man filed for divorce in Hunan Province after DNA testing revealed his three-year-old daughter was not his, but the 30-day period was still invoked, with the court saying it would "give each other some time to repair their relationship”.

It could be a blip?
Commentators point out that demand for divorce appointments had accelerated so dramatically ahead of the new legislation being brought in, slots were being sold by scalpers.

In the UK?
In Scotland, there were 7,379 divorces from 2018-19, up from 6,869 the year before. In England and Wales, there were 108,421 divorces, up from 91,299 - the Office for National Statistics said although a casework backlog in 2018 could be partly to blame. There has been an overall downward trend since the most recent peak of 153,065 divorces in 2003. A 20-week "cooling off" period came into effect with new legislation last year, but statistics are not yet available.