Marriage in Asia

A recent article in The Economist explores the decline in marriage rates in Asia, as well as its causes and potential consequences. The first graph from the article (right) shows an upward trend in the average marriage age of women since 1970 in India, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. As the graph shows, the average marriage age of women was about 28-30 in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea in 2005. This is higher than in the US, where the average age of marriage in the US is about 26, according to the article.

The second graph shows a dramatic increase in the percent of 35-39 year-old women that were unmarried in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore. The growing number of unmarried women in their late 30s suggests that not only are women getting married later, but less women from these countries are ever getting married. One cause of the increasing number of unmarried women in these countries is an increase in education, employment and income of women. The article sites a survey conducted in Beijing in 2003 that found that half of women with a monthly income of 5,000-15,000 yuan (about $600-$1,800) were unmarried. Half of these unmarried women respondents said they did not need to be married because they were financially independent. The article also points out that the marriage rate of women declines with every level of education in Asian countries, with university graduates least likely to marry. According to the article, Asian women with higher levels of education and income face a larger opportunity cost of giving up a career to have children, leading many to choose work, .

China and India, Asia's two largest countries, seem to be less affected by this decline in marriage rates as they have shown only slight increases in the percentage of unmarried women in their late 30s since 1970. While women may not be growing more hesitant to marry like they are in surrounding countries, there will simply be less women to marry due to the distorted sex ratios already present in both countries. Largely a result of sex-selective abortion, a process in which "parents use pre-natal screening to identify the sex of the fetus and rid themselves of daughters," there were more than 118 boys born for every 100 girls in China and 109 boys born for every 100 girls in India in 2010, according to the article. The article sites studies done by Avraham Ebenstein of Harvard University and Ethan Sharygin of the University of Pennsylvania, which project that by 2030, 8% of Chinese men aged 25 and older will be unable to marry because of the country's distorted sex ratio and about 10-15% by 2050. These projections are also shown in the second graph (right).
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