Vietnam’s young Catholics pay no heed to marriage, offspring

Church reports that an increasing number of younger people in urban areas are opting to remain single for life .

Jan 23, 2020

HO CHI MINH CITY: Mary Dinh Thi Phuong spends her weekends at nail bars and hairdressers, shopping for clothes, partying or hanging out with her friends. She goes on national and foreign vacations three or four times a year.

“My single life is good. I have relatives and friends to go out with during my free time. That’s it,” said the attractive 39-year-old, who is still single.

She said her four siblings married before the age of 30. They work long hours to support their families and do the housework. They have no time for themselves.

Her older brother has difficulties bringing up his three children and asked his siblings to help. “I can’t bear to lead a hard and boring life as they do,” she said.

Phuong, who has a well-paid job at a foreign company based in Ho Chi Minh City, said she is financially independent of her family. She lives with her mother and an unmarried older sister. She gives her mother two million dong (some US$87) for her food.

She said several men have proposed but she turned them down. “I fear marriage may make my life boring,” she said, adding that she is no longer under pressure from her family to get married.

“I am happy with my life now and I want to live a single life,” said Phuong, noting that many of her friends are also single. 

Anne Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh, 41, said she has no plans to marry since her boyfriend, a non-Catholic, refuses to embrace her religion. They have known each other for a dozen years.

Anh, who works as an accountant for a local company and lives alone, said she missed opportunities to get married in the past and “now  I am not interested in marriage.”

She said her parents no longer urge her to tie the knot because she never talks about her marriage plans with them. Her three sisters got married between the ages of 22 and 26.

“I am happy to spend the rest of my life looking after my parents,” said Anh, who gives half of her salary to her parents who live in An Giang Diocese in southern Vietnam. “I know how to manage my life and look after myself when I am sick.”

A senior official from the National Committee for Population and Family Planning said one-person households have increased sharply from seven percent in 2009 to 12 percent in 2019.

Many young people choose to live alone, have an aversion to marriage or having children and like to be financially independent. He said few people remain in extended families.

Dwindling marriages
The official warned that Ho Chi Minh City’s total fertility rate plummeted from 1.76 children in 2000 to 1.33 children in 2018, significantly lower than the country’s replacement-level fertility of 2.10 children. In 2019, Vietnam had a population of 96 million.

He blamed life and work pressures, late marriage, late childbirth and an overall aversion to giving birth for the declining birth rate in the city with a population of nine million.

He said in the future the trend will cause a drop in the workforce while the increasing number of elderly people will become a burden on society as they have few relatives to look after them.

Paul Truong Quan Hoang, 54, who got married eight years ago, said he has no desire to become a father due to the rising costs of having a child.

“We earn 14 million dong a month (US$600) and have to pay the rent. How can we bring up a child well when we get older and are unable to support our child,” he said.

He said each month his younger sister spends five million dong on her child’s nursery school fees, food and other expenses. She has to pay out more money if the child falls sick.

“If you have no financial difficulties, you should have children and will be able to support them well. If not, your children will have no opportunities to live as full a life as other people,” Hoang said. “In the end, what it all boils down to is money.”

Fr John Le Quang Viet, who serves as head of the Youth Ministry Committee in Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, said that the marriageable age on average now is between 25 and 35, older than the previous range of 20-25.

Fr Viet said his Mac Ty Nho parish with 1,000 Catholics now sees 25-40 couples getting married per year. This is lower than the figure 10 years ago.

The priest said young people who live independently, are well educated, with good jobs and high incomes seek to marry those who share the same status and religion. He conceded that some people avoid marriage or becoming parents.

Fr Viet, 58, said family is the glue of the Church and society as well as the foundation of consecrated life.

“If young people have an aversion to marriage or giving birth, young vocations will be affected,” he said.

He said the parish holds pastoral activities for young people to meet one another, invites them to join associations and attend marriage courses.

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