Low income earners discouraged from seeking romance

By Quang Huong   October 5, 2023 | 03:25 pm PT
Trung Dung has not dated anyone for two years because he says he doesn't have enough money for a girlfriend.

The 32-year-old factory worker in Ho Chi Minh City said his five previous relationships ended because of his low income. The women often wanted a man with a higher salary and more money.

"Sometimes it was the other partner that complained about my income, sometimes it was their parents," he said.

The money question was the most ubiquitous discussion each and every family of Dung’s ex-girlfriends always tried to prod him on. And when they learned how poor he was, they became uninterested.

He’s now discouraged and not interested in dating. He’s come to consider romantic relationships a luxury that only men who own expensive cars or houses can enjoy. Low-wage earners with inexpensive motorbikes like him simply don’t get romance, he said. It’s a common saying in Vietnam: "no money, no honey."

Dung is not the only one struggling to provide enough finances to maintain a romantic relationship.

Many people in Vietnam are struggling making enough money to date and to marry. Photo illustration by Freepik

Many people in Vietnam are struggling making enough money to date and to marry. Photo illustration by Freepik

A recent report conducted by the Vietnam Institute of Workers and Trade Union, an arm of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, which studied 3,000 participants, revealed that 54% of the workers in Vietnam considered wages a decisive factor in deciding whether or not they should settle down.

Huu Dao of the northern province of Bac Giang earns VND8 million ($328) a month. After deducting his living costs and allowances he sends his parents, he has VND4 million left for his savings. He avoids thinking about getting married because he doesn’t think he’d be able to provide for a family.

"[I think] financial matters account for 60% of whether a couple can stay with each other long-term," he said.

Therefore, despite his powerful desire for a family, Dao says he does not think he’ll be able to have one.

"If my wife has a job then we can be fine, otherwise we will be struggling with money for sure," he said. "Our expenses will also soar if we have kids, and I don’t want to be an irresponsible father who cannot even take good care of my children."

Thus, Dao is not interested in approaching women romantically because he fears the bitterness of being rejected for his lack of money.

"Honestly speaking, I’m not comfortable dating a woman with my current salary," he said. "Not to mention that any woman with a better financial capability would not be interested in me as their romantic partner."

His worries are somewhat confirmed by marriage experts, who say that many married couples often find themselves arguing, or even divorcing, because of financial issues. Statistics show that money is the number one topic married couples fight about all over the world, whether rich or poor.

According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, the average age that men get married at has drastically risen over the past 30 years. The shift is equally pervasive in both metropolitan and rural areas. And studies have shown that the increasingly crippling cost of living is the major cause of such trends.

Traditional Vietnamese culture and beliefs are strict: the man in the family should be the breadwinner and carry all the family’s financial responsibilities.

Thus, an increasing number of men are suffering severe anxiety as the global economy sinks, inflation and the cost-of-living rises, and salaries remain far below anything that could be considered a living wage.

The above-mentioned report by the Vietnam Institute of Workers and Trade Union also revealed that 75.5% of men in Vietnam feel their income is not enough for their financial needs, and 11.2% have had to work at least two jobs to cover the rising cost of living. Compared to that, only 8.1% of Vietnamese men claim to have any savings at all.

But that does not mean men are the only victims of financial pressure. Part of the female population in Vietnam also find their romantic lives challenging due to money issues.

Suong Mai, 30, an interior designer in HCMC, broke up with her ex-boyfriend three years ago after his mother expressed dissatisfaction with her income.

"She [the mother of Mai’s ex-boyfriend] said I was not qualified to be her daughter-in-law," Mai said. "I think I still have not overcome the hurt I felt after hearing that."

Mai said she has since managed to raise her income to VND20 million. She lamented that if she’d been earning that much when she met her ex-boyfriend’s mother three years ago, things would have been different.

"At least they might have seen me as a woman who put effort into my career," she explained.

Mai said her age is now another obstacle in the way of marriage, even though she does not have to worry about money anymore. Though she wants to have a partner whom she can spend time with after work, who can enjoy meals with her, and who can accompany her towards better goals in their lives, people her age cannot easily achieve that goal, according to Mai.

Thus, she is still single.

"And I cannot get back with my ex-boyfriend either," she said.

According to Mai Trung Son, deputy head of the Department of Population Size and Family Planning under the General Office for Population and Family Planning of Vietnam, this phenomenon could also cause worrisome and disruptive sociological problems in the future.

Son said that when people do not get married because of financial obstacles, the population will age at a problematic rate and ration. This impending proportional imbalance will create an insufficient labor force and harm the whole society’s social welfare system.

As for the mental health problems, psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam said that building a career while getting emotionally close to someone romantically has been a significant, and even vastly important, part of the human developmental phase towards maturity between the ages of 18 and 35.

Hence, those belonging to this age group who fail to maintain romantic relationships may suffer from mental burnouts, including severe anxiety, depression, lack of purpose and a paralyzing feeling of emptiness inside.

But even being aware of this negative side does not guarantee that those who are sacrificing their personal lives for financial issues will successfully find a solution.

"People have more options to choose from when they have more money," Dao concluded. "At least they can settle down and have kids much more easily than I can, who has been searching for someone to marry, only to no avail."

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