It’s not that Hong Kong people are loving less. It’s just that love costs so much these days.
That seems to be the gist of a comprehensive report, Women and Men in Hong Kong: Key Statistics, published recently by the Census and Statistics Bureau.
Buried in the cold numbers of the report are valuable insights into the changing patterns of love, marriage and family in our beloved city.
The report also shows that many are opting for late marriage, if at all, and the number of “leftover” ladies are increasing along with the number of our men looking across the border to find their life partners.
Let’s start with the number of marriages. Last year, the number of registered marriages dropped 9 percent to 51,609, a decade low.
Assuming love is constant, the only factor that caused the low number undoubtedly was the unaffordable home prices.
The record-high residential prices made it extremely hard, if not impossible, for our youngsters to get their first flat – either by purchase or rental – and hence reduced their incentives to get hitched.
Marrying late is a global phenomenon, really, not just here in Hong Kong. But it’s especially true in Asian countries like Japan, where roughly a third of the ladies in their 30s remain single.
Pregnancy is a major reason for marriage. Can you recall how many wedding banquets you’ve attended where the bride has an unmistakable baby bump?
According to the latest government data, the median age for the female with a first-born child is 31.4, up from 29.4 in 2001 and 25.1 in 1981.
That many Hongkongers are opting for late marriage is undeniable. The median age for marriage for women was 29.3 in 2015, compared with 23.9 in 1981. For men, it was 31.2 last year, compared with 27.0 in 1981.
In fact, the trend of late marriage has been going on for the past three decades, and it’s been influenced by changes to the stages in our life’s journey.
We now spend a longer time on our formal education, we start to work at a later age than before, and we have a longer life span.
That also explains the surging number of single ladies. The data shows that the number of adult unmarried women (excluding domestic helpers) in Hong Kong has surged to a record high.
Single women aged between 30 and 34 topped 128,900, 75,800 of them were between 35 and 39, 60,100 between 40 and 44 and 50,400 between 45 and 49.
The numbers in these categories represented a more than 10 percent growth from their levels 10 years ago. Compared with 20 years ago, the numbers surged at least 30 percent.
A lot of theories are being bandied about to explain the single lady phenomenon, but the rise in the number of career-oriented women as against the fall in the number of compatible men can probably explain it best.
Another trend is the growing number of marriages between Hong Kong residents and mainlanders.
There were 7,136 cases of Hong Kong women marrying mainland men, and 16,154 cases of Hong Kong men marrying mainland ladies.
We understand that many of these marriages are not genuine as local residents sell their marital status to enable their “spouses” to live in Hong Kong.
Anyway, the figures show that two in three cross-border marriages involved Hong Kong men while a third were with Hong Kong women.
Meanwhile, the number of divorces fell to 20,075 in 2015 from 22,271 in 2013. That’s a nearly 10 percent fall.
The trend should be considered in tandem with the fall in the number of marriages.
But think about it: for every 100 marriages, there were 40 divorces.
So living happily ever after may be a fairy tale for at least 40 percent of married couples. But that also means it could be a reality for the remaining 60 percent.
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