Although the gender pay gap remains a persistent problem in China, where women on average earn 16 percent less than their male counterparts, Chinese women are becoming an increasingly powerful force in the country’s housing market.
About 46.7 percent of all homebuyers were women in 2018, according to a report (in Chinese) released by the real-estate broker platform Beike Zhaofang 贝壳找房, which surveyed thousands of women aged 18 to 50 in 12 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Wuhan. This is a dramatic increase: In 2016, women only accounted for 5 percent of all home purchases.
The report also sheds some light on the growing purchase power of single women over 30. Among this demographic group, 47.1 percent of them have bought their own homes. More than one-third pulled off a home purchase without a loan and 23.4 percent own more than two properties.
Intrigued by the phenomenon, which defies traditional gender norms in China, Southern Weekly recently published a feature story (in Chinese) that investigated the reasons for the astronomical growth of female homeownership in recent years. In their talks with a few female homeowners, journalists at the newspaper noticed that many of them cited “a sense of security” as the main motivation for their homebuying decisions. Homeownership as a statement of independence is especially attractive to successful women in high-paying jobs. In an interview with the newspaper, a female senior manager at a finance firm said that having three properties under her name largely elevated her “status in the family” and made her more confident in her dignity as a woman.
The article also notes that families that have only one child are relatively more supportive in providing financial assistance for their daughter’s home purchases. Some are even willing to buy real estate for their daughters. In addition, parents from the older generation see homebuying as a safe investment and many of them are planning ahead for a financially secure retirement.
Women’s concerns about unfair loss of assets in divorce cases have also played a large role in contributing to this trend. While the current marriage law seems unbiased, stipulating only that whoever makes payments can claim ownership of the property, some lawyers have pointed out that women are often at a disadvantage because of traditional Chinese gender norms. When entering into a marriage, men usually provide property in the form of the marital home, while the woman and her family are instead expected to contribute caili (彩礼 cǎilǐ), or betrothal gifts, normally in the form of cash or gifts like furniture or cars. As a result, during divorce, men are usually able to leave the marriage while retaining ownership of property, as women are frequently not added to the deeds or other legal documents.