NANJING, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Wang Zhijie, a 28-year-old deliveryman in the city of Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, had a big day on Thursday when he officially married his girlfriend of three years at a local registration office.
The registration process added to his joy. Thanks to China's expansion of its cross-regional marriage registration pilot areas, the young couple was able to avoid traveling some 1,600 km back to their hometown in the northeastern province of Liaoning to register their marriage.
Including Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu, 21 provincial-level regions in China began implementing a trial cross-regional marriage and divorce registration policy on June 1 this year.
With the policy, Chinese mainland residents who plan to marry can choose registries in the place of habitual residence of either the bride or groom, instead of having to return to a city where they have a household registration, or hukou, as previously regulated.
"The policy is so convenient for migrants like me," Wang said, adding that it only took 10 minutes to register their marriage and they saved nearly 3,000 yuan (about 423 U.S. dollars) in travel expenses.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Chinese marriage registries handle marriage registrations and divorce registrations and reissue marriage certificates for an annual average of approximately 18 million couples.
The expanded program covers about 78.5 percent of the country's population, a level that can in basic terms meet the people's demand for marriage registration, according to ministry official Wang Jinhua.
China's economic powerhouse of Jiangsu was among the first group of provinces to launch a pilot program two years ago, and it has since seen more than 24,000 inter-provincial marriages registered, said He Zhengbiao, an official of the provincial civil affairs department.
"It has been well received by young couples, and they believe it is a heartening policy that saves them time and expenses," He said, noting that the reform will also motivate more people to tie the knot.
China has been making efforts to build a marriage-friendly environment. Marriage registries in many cities accepted registrations on May 20 this year, for example, despite it being a Saturday when such offices are normally closed. Many Chinese couples each year attempt to register on that date, which is pronounced similarly to "I love you" in Chinese.
The marriage registry in Jiangning District of Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, handled 635 marriage registrations on May 20, 2023, and 40 percent of those marriages were cross-regional registrations.
"Although our workload has increased a lot due to the pilot program, we have made great efforts to improve efficiency," said He Ting, director of the registration office. "We are happy to build up the sense of happiness and belonging among more migrant newlyweds."
Approximately 493 million Chinese people lived in away from the location of their household registration in 2020, with those aged between 15 and 35 accounting for more than 70 percent of that number, according to the latest national census.
To ease the burden on the migrant population, the Chinese government has included the cross-provincial administrative services as part of its ongoing reform of government functions.
The State Council, or China's cabinet, issued a guideline for the promotion of such services in 2020, listing 140 services in fields such as education, employment, social insurance, healthcare, marriage, housing and travel.
"Implementing cross-regional administrative services is a sound strategy for the construction of digital government, helping improve service efficiency, increase transparency and create more public value," said Liu Bing, an associate professor at Beijing Normal University.
"It brings more benefits to people and enterprises, helping improve the business environment," Liu added.