SCMP Monday, August 27, 2001

Single women quadruple in 15 years


The number of Hong Kong women in their 30s or 40s who have never married has almost quadrupled in 15 years, and an expert is linking the rise to their increased education and financial independence.
According to 2000 census details, released this month, there are now 223,300 such women, representing 16.6 per cent of the age group - compared with 57,300, or 8.8 per cent, in 1986.
The number of bachelors has also increased, but at a much slower rate.
With divorcees and widows included, about 22 per cent of women in the two age groups were single last year compared with 12.6 per cent in 1986.
Dr Paul Yip Siu-fai, senior lecturer in statistics at the University of Hong Kong, said many women stuck to the traditional rule of marrying men who were older, earned more and were better-educated. But women's increased affluence and education made it harder to find a suitable match.
"I do not rule out that even more women will choose to remain single in the coming years," Dr Yip said. "We see more women than men going into higher education. The socio-economic standing of women is rising in the community."
Dr Yip predicted there would be a large population of single elderly in the coming decades if the trend continued.
He also pointed out that more men than women remarried after divorce or their spouse's death. There were 4,372 male remarriages in 2000 compared with 3,943 women.
The pool of single men has increased since 1986, but at a slower rate than for women. There are 266,200 (22.9 per cent) unmarried, widowed or divorced men in the 30-49 age bracket, compared with 151,200 (19.7 per cent) in 1986.
"Local women are also running short of selection as many Hong Kong men, including professionals, choose to marry across the border," Dr Yip said.
"We usually hear about SAR men looking for wives on the mainland, but very seldom do we see Hong Kong women marrying mainland men."
However, Women's Commission member Maurice Lee Wai-man said there were still more single men than women in Hong Kong.
"We are talking about the quality rather than quantity of single men. Hong Kong women nowadays are so brilliant that they are looking for someone comparable with them or they may choose to remain single," Mr Lee said.