27 January 2020
More Hong Kong ladies are crossing the border to look for Mr. Right, and government planners are getting worried. Photo: HKEJ
More Hong Kong ladies are crossing the border to look for Mr. Right, and government planners are getting worried. Photo: HKEJ

The new cross-border family

Just because there are more women than men in Hong Kong doesn’t mean the fairer sex will get the short end of the stick when it comes to romance and marriage. No siree.

Nowadays, local single ladies just have to cross the border to find Mr. Right.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong, in his latest official blog, notes that a growing proportion of cross-border marriages involve Hong Kong women and mainland men. Based on official statistics in 2017, about a third of such unions involved Hong Kong ladies.

And with the Greater Bay Area, and other developments supporting Hong Kong’s further integration with the mainland, the trend will continue at least until the next decade.

For Law, that could be a cause for concern. It may mean that Hong Kong’s population will decline sooner than expected.

That’s because Hong Kong women, when they marry mainland men, are more likely to start their families over there, rather than live together here.

And with our aging population, that means the time may come when the city’s workforce may not be enough to ensure the growth of our economy.

But yours truly came up with a slightly different view of the phenomenon.

First, on the supply side, there are more single ladies than bachelors in Hong Kong, and on the demand side, local ladies, who have gained the reputation (or notoriety?) of being hard to please and have very high criteria for their life partner, would see more competition from mainland ladies, who are younger and – some say – gentler.

But, of course, Hong Kong ladies can pick a lot more, and perhaps better, prospects across the border, men who would not spend the whole day playing mobile games and would be more willing to help in the housework.

In the ’80s, about 95 percent of cross-border unions involved Hong Kong men marrying mainland ladies.

The number of cross-border marriages surged from 2003 after the introduction of the individual visit scheme.

The one-way permits that allow mainlanders to move to Hong Kong, normally for family reunions, meant more mainland men marrying local women.

But now the trend appears to be going in the opposite direction. Law says that recent policies that make it easier for Hongkongers to live in the mainland may mean fewer mainlanders would want to apply for one-way permits.

That means more Hong Kong ladies will be moving to the mainland in search for Mr. Right. At the same time, more local men would look for employment opportunities across the border, and a growing number of them would be marrying mainland women.

Meanwhile, as cross-border marriages increase, the divorce rate in Hong Kong is going up. The number of divorce cases in the city doubled to 20,000 in 2017, compared with 1997. About a quarter of the divorces will end up in remarriages.

So more cross-border marriages.

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EJ Insight writer