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China begins to wake up to spending power of its LGBT citizens

China begins to wake up to spending power of its LGBT citizens

(L-R) The L Co-Founder & Marketing Director Sammy Wu, Founder & CEO Geng Le, Dan Lan/Blued, Founder WorkForLGBT Steven Paul Bielinski and former Vice President, Amazon China, Truman Lee

The second, annual China Pink Market Conference attracted 170 participants – many from Fortune 500 companies – to the Langham Xintiandi Hotel Shanghai yesterday.

One of the highlights of the conference was the release of details of the 2015 China LGBT Community Report.

The report aims to provide guidance for companies wishing to explore the LGBT Pink Market in China. Completed in September, it drew upon almost 19,000 responses (up from 8,000 in 2014). Its authors believe it to be the biggest survey of LGBT people in the Asia Pacific area.

Key findings from the LGBT Report include:

  • Over the next five years, one out of three LGBT Chinese plan to ‘come out’ to more people, while nearly half remain undecided, and one out of four have no plans to reveal their identity.
  • Outbound international travel for the LGBT community has risen slightly in the past year, up from 17% in 2014 to 19% in 2015. Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand remain the top three popular destinations within Asia, with the US the most popular outside Asia.
  • More than 50% of those questioned said that they were single. A similar number said they hoped one day to marry a person of the same gender. Around 20% said they preferred to be single, while 5% said that a marriage of convenience would be their ideal.
  • Same-sex marriage is not legal in China, but 70% expressed interest in exploring marriage overseas while 30% expressed interest in overseas surrogacy arrangements.
  • Twenty-two percent of those questioned said that they were ‘doing great’ financially, up from 19% last year. However, the number who reported doing poorly financially also rose, from 21% to 29%.
  • Forty-eight percent said that corporate support for LGBT causes and policies had an impact on their purchasing decisions.
  • ‘Family pressure’ was the number one concern of 77% of respondents, followed by such issues as coming out and societal recognition, AIDS and other illnesses, legal protection, and workplace discrimination.
  • The average monthly salary of respondents was 10,298 RMB ($1,619/€1,509).

The China Pink Market Conference is organized by local LGBT advocacy group WorkForLGBT, in collaboration with market research company YouGov, websites and dating apps Dan Lan/Blued and The L, and public relations firm Weber Shandwick.

WorkForLGBT is a non-profit that was launched in 2013. Its founder Steven Paul Bielinski, said in a statement, ‘Over the past year, companies including Alibaba, Baidu, Haier, Meituan, Lenovo, Youku, Huashuo, DangDang and other Chinese domestic firms have started advertising and reaching out through social media to LGBT people for the first time as customers; expressing support for LGBT diversity and inclusion.

‘Companies here are starting to realize the importance of LGBT diversity in their recruiting and retention of talent. China has tens of millions of LGBT consumers, and through our 2nd Annual China LGBT Community Report, companies can gain more information about this community and understand how to better serve the needs of LGBT customers and employees that can benefit both their firms and the local LGBT community.’

Earlier this year, WorkForLGBT organized the 1st China LGBT Talent Job Fair, with Fortune 500 companies including Starbucks, IBM, Microsoft, Google, Ford, L’Oreal, and IPG taking part.

In a statement to Gay Star Business, Bielinski said that he took encouragement from the fact that a third of respondents said they were planning on coming out, and seven out of ten were interested in marrying overseas: ‘These two points give me great hope that LGBT people’s visibility in China is going to continue to increase rapidly, providing businesses here with new ways to advance equality through the Pink market.’

Geng Le, the former policeman turned CEO of Dan Lan/Blued, made headlines earlier in the year when he flew several Chinese gay couples to California to enjoy symbolic wedding ceremonies – to help raise the issue of same-sex marriage back home in China.

Blued has more than 15million global users, making it the world’s biggest gay dating app (Grindr has around 5million).

He said that more Chinese companies are becoming aware for the first time of the power of LGBT consumers.

‘In China today, there are more than 70 million LGBT Chinese, equivalent to the entire population of the UK or the population of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen combined,’ he said in a statement.

‘In June of this year, many Chinese companies for the first time started advertising towards LGBT consumers, and the concept of a “Pink Market” truly began to become popular and accepted in China.’

Geng Le’s reference to June reflected that fact that many companies in China posted supportive messages on their social media when the US Supreme Court announced its landmark ruling on same-sex marriage.

Geng’s Le’s sentiments were echoed by Lesbian mobile app Co-Founder Sammy Wu, co-founder of lesbian mobile app The L, who said, ‘The unique spending habits and lifestyle needs of lesbian and bisexual women in China is becoming more and more apparent by the day.’