from DailyBrew Website
Don't worry about any pending apocalypse,
Canada is due to become extinct in a few thousand years.
from Economist Website
How long do countries have until their
That is one reason why their fertility rates have fallen. And they are not alone. In 83 countries and territories around the world, according to the United Nations, women will not have enough daughters to replace themselves, unless fertility rates rise.
In Hong Kong, for example, a cohort of 1,000 women would be expected to give birth to just 547 daughters, at today’s fertility rates. (That gives Hong Kong a “net reproduction rate” of just 0.547, in the language of demographers.)
If nothing changed, those 547 daughters would be succeeded by just 299 daughters of their own, and so on. At that rate, according to some back-of-the-envelope calculations by The Economist, it would take about 25 generations for Hong Kong’s female population to shrink from 3.75m to just one.
Given that Hong Kong’s average age of childbearing is 31.4 years, it could expect to give birth to its last woman in the year 2798. (That is some time after its neighbor, Macau, which has a higher reproduction rate, but a much smaller population.)
By the same unflinching logic,
...will not see out the next millennium.
Even China, which has a recorded history
stretching back at least 3,700 years, has only about 1,500 years left - if
present trends continued unbroken.
August 20, 2011
from Economist Website
Yet, at 35, she is well past Taiwan’s unspoken marriage deadline.
Maybe - but since she still wants children, Ms
Hou is also wondering whether to use a sperm bank or ask a male friend to be
a sperm donor. She represents a new world of family life for Asians.
The family is the focus of Confucian ethics, which holds that a basic moral principle, xiushen (self-improvement), can be pursued only within the confines of the family. In an interview in 1994 Lee Kuan Yew, a former prime minister of Singapore, argued that after thousands of years of dynastic upheaval, the family is the only institution left to sustain Chinese culture.
It embodies a set of virtues - “learning and scholarship and hard work and thrift and deferment of present enjoyment for future gain” - which, he said, underpins Asia’s economic success.
He feared that the collapse of the family, if it
ever happened, would be the main threat to Singapore’s success.
In a book written in 1995 with a Japanese politician, Shintaro Ishihara, Dr Mahathir contrasted Asians’ respect for marriage with,
He might well have concluded that the absence of
traditional family virtues from the streets of London recently showed the
continued superiority of Asia.
East Asia also has a male-dominated system, but one that stresses the nuclear family more; nowadays it has abandoned arranged marriages.
In South-East Asia, women have somewhat more
autonomy. But all three systems have escaped many of the social changes that
have buffeted family life in the West since the 1960s.
Marriage continues to be the almost universal setting for child-bearing in Asia:
Contrast that with Europe:
Most East and South-East Asian countries report little or no cohabitation.
The exception is Japan where, among women born in the 1970s, about 20% say they have cohabited with a sexual partner. For Japan, that is a big change. In surveys between 1987 and 2002, just 1-7% of single women said they had lived with a partner.
But it is not much compared with America where,
according to a 2002 Gallup poll, over half of married Americans between the
ages of 18 and 49 lived together before their wedding day. In many Western
societies, more cohabitation has offset a trend towards later marriage or
higher rates of divorce. That has not happened in Asia.
Pew Global Research, a social-research
outfit in Washington, DC, show that Muslims in South and South-East Asia are
more likely than Muslims elsewhere to say that families should choose a
woman’s husband for her.
Although attitudes to sex and marriage are different from those in the West, the pressures of wealth and modernisation upon family life have been just as relentless. They have simply manifested themselves in different ways. In the West the upshot has been divorce and illegitimacy. In Asia the results include later marriage, less marriage and (to some extent) more divorce.
The changes in the West may be more dramatic.
But both East and West are seeing big changes in the role of women and
traditional family life.
That is past the point at which women were traditionally required to marry in many Asian societies.
It is also older than in the West. In America,
women marry at about 26, men at 28. If you take account of the cohabitation
that routinely precedes Western marriage (but not Asian), the gap between
East and West is even larger. The mean age of marriage has risen by five
years in some East Asian countries in three decades, which is a lot.
In 2010 a third of Japanese women entering their 30s were single. Perhaps half or more of those will never marry. In 2010 37% of all women in Taiwan aged 30-34 were single, as were 21% of 35-39-year-olds. This, too, is more than in Britain and America, where only 13-15% of those in their late 30s are single.
If women are unmarried entering their 40s, they will almost certainly neither marry nor have a child. The Asian avoidance of marriage is new, and striking. Only 30 years ago, just 2% of women were single in most Asian countries.
The share of unmarried women in their 30s in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong has risen 20 points or more (see chart below),
In Thailand, the number of women entering their 40s without being married increased from 7% in 1980 to 12% in 2000.
In some cities, rates of non-marriage are higher:
In South Korea, young men complain that women
are on “marriage strike”.
In Sweden, the proportion of women in their late 30s who are single is higher than in Asia, at 41%. But that is because marriage is disappearing as a norm. Swedish women are still setting up homes and having children, just outside wedlock. Not in Asia.
Avoiding both illegitimacy and cohabitation,
Asian women appear to be living a more celibate life than their Western
sisters (admittedly, they could also be under-reporting rates of
cohabitation and pre-marital sex). The conclusion is that East Asia’s
growing cohorts of unmarried women reflect less the breakdown of marriage
than the fact that they are avoiding it.
In Asia as a whole, the rate is about 2 per 1,000. That compares with 3.7 in America, 3.4 in Britain, 3.1 in France and 2.8 in Germany. Only in one or two Asian countries is divorce as widespread as in the West.
The South Korean rate, for example, is 3.5. Because divorce has been common in the West for decades, more couples there have split up. The rise in Asia has been recent: China’s divorce rate took off in the early 2000s. In the 1980s the Asian rate was 1 per 1,000 people; now it is 2.
If that rise continues, Asian divorce could one
day be as common as in Europe.
Not surprisingly, changes in child-bearing have gone along with changes in marriage. The number of children the average East Asian woman can expect to have during her lifetime - the fertility rate - has fallen from 5.3 in the late 1960s to below 1.6 now, an enormous drop.
But old-fashioned attitudes persist, and these
require couples to start having children soon after marriage. In these
circumstances, women choose to reduce child-bearing by delaying it - and
that means delaying marriage, too.
In South Asia, brides are taken into the groom’s
family almost as soon as they move into puberty. They are tied to their
husband’s family. Sometimes women may not inherit property or perform
funeral rites (this is especially important in China). In parts of South
Asia, wives may not even take their children to hospital without getting
their husband’s permission.
Women’s education in East Asia has improved dramatically over the past 30 years, and has almost erased the literacy gap with men. Girls stay at school for as many years as boys, and illiteracy rates for 15-24-year-olds are the same for the two sexes (this is not true of South Asia).
In South Korea now, women earn half of all master’s degrees. Education changes women’s expectations.
Among Thai women who left school at 18, one-eighth were still single in their 40s; but among university graduates, the share was a fifth. A survey in Beijing in 2003 found that half of women with a monthly income of 5,000-15,000 yuan (roughly $600-1,800, an indicator of university education) were not married. Half said they did not need to be, because they were financially independent.
South Koreans call such people “golden misses”.
Rates of non-marriage rise at every stage of education.
Women with less than secondary education are the
most likely to marry, followed by those with secondary education, with
university graduates least likely. This pattern is the opposite of the one
in America and Europe, where marriage is more common among college graduates
than among those with just a secondary education.
Since education is likely to go on improving,
and urbanization to go on rising, more women will join the ranks of
graduates or city folk who are least likely to marry.
In most Asian countries, women have always been permitted - even encouraged - to “marry up”, i.e., marry a man of higher income or education. Marrying up was necessary in the past when women could not get an education and female literacy was low.
But now that many women are doing as well or better than men at school, those at the top - like the “golden misses” - find the marriage market unwelcoming. Either there are fewer men of higher education for them to marry, or lower-income men feel intimidated by their earning power (as well as their brain power).
As Singapore’s Mr Lee once said:
In Singapore, non-marriage rates among female
university graduates are stratospheric: a third of 30-34-year-old university
graduates are single.
Asia’s economic miracle has caused - and been caused by - a surge of women into the formal workforce. In East Asia two-thirds of women have jobs, an unusually high rate. In South-East Asia the figure is 59%. In South Korea the employment rate of women in their 20s (59.2%) recently overtook that of twenty-something men (58.5%).
This surge has been accompanied by the collapse
of the lifetime-employment systems in Japanese and South Korean firms, which
used to ensure that a single (male) worker’s income could support a
middle-class family. Now the wife’s earnings are needed, too.
But for what it is worth, in a survey from 2011 of Japan’s three largest cities, only two-thirds of wives said they felt positive about their marriage, much less than their husbands; in America, both husbands and wives usually report higher and similar levels of satisfaction. In a survey from 2000, satisfaction levels in Japan were only half those in America.
This may be because the readier availability of
divorce in America has left fewer people trapped in loveless marriages. Or
there may be something in the Japanese caricature of the salary-man husband
working long hours and socializing all night and at weekends, while his
neglected, fretful wife struggles to bring up the children at home.
Illyqueen, a popular Taiwanese blogger, recently ranted about “Mama’s boys” in their 30s who have had,
If some Asian women do indeed have an unusually
negative view of marriage, it might make them more likely to choose a job
over a husband, or to put off marriage while they pursue a career.
Despite higher incomes and education,
They are expected to give up work - sometimes on marriage, often after childbirth - and many do not return to the job market until their children are grown.
This forces upon women an unwelcome choice
between career and family. It may also help to explain the unusually low
marriage rates among the best-educated and best-paid women, for whom the
opportunity cost of giving up a career to have children is greatest.
The result is that expectations placed on wives
have become unusually onerous. Surveys in Japan have suggested that women
who work full-time then go home and spend another 30 hours a week doing the
housework. Their husbands contribute an unprincely three hours of effort. In
America and Europe the disparity is less extreme, and has narrowed
considerably since the 1960s.
All this means it is harder to strike a
satisfying balance between job and family in Asia than in the West.
South Korea, for example, has lower rates of non-marriage, and a lower age of marriage, than its neighbors. But the big exceptions are Asia’s giants. At the moment, marriage is still the norm in China and arranged marriage the norm in India. As long as that continues to be true, a majority of Asians will live in traditional families.
But how long will it continue? Signs of change
When the husband and wife go to the city
together, either they choose not to bring their children with them (since
both work full time) or they may not do so, since the hukou
household-registration system prevents dependants from joining them.
According to a survey in 2008 by the All-China Women’s Federation, 58m
children of migrant workers were being brought up hundreds of miles away, in
their parents’ village, usually by grandparents. The immediate family is no
longer the universal setting for child-rearing in China.
Tens of millions of female fetuses have been aborted over the past generation, as parents use pre-natal screening to identify the sex of the fetus and then rid themselves of daughters. In China in 2010 more than 118 boys were born for every 100 girls. In India the ratio was 109 to 100.
By 2030, according to Avraham Ebenstein of Harvard University and Ethan Sharygin of the University of Pennsylvania, about 8% of Chinese men aged 25 and older will be unable to marry because of the country’s distorted sex ratio. By 2050 the unmarried share will be 10-15%.
In 2030, in the two giants, there will be 660m men between the ages of 20 and 50, but only 597m women. Over 60m men therefore face the prospect of not finding a bride. That is almost as many men of 20-50 as will be living in America in that year.
This alone will wreck Asia’s tradition of
Arguably, the most important thing is that women
who do not want to marry are no longer being forced to. And that must be a
benefit: to them, to men spared an unhappy marriage; perhaps to society as a
Because women tend to marry up - that is, marry
men in an income or educational group above them - any problems of
non-marriage are not dispersed throughout society but concentrated in two
groups with dim wedding prospects: men with no education and women with a
And that encapsulates the biggest worry about
Asia’s flight from marriage. If (when?) it spreads to China and India, it
will combine with the surplus of bachelors to cause unheard-of strains.
Prostitution could rise; brides could be traded like commodities, or women
forced to “marry” several men; wives could be kept in purdah by
jealous, fearful husbands.
Many girls are illiterate teenagers sold (in practice) by their families to older, richer foreigners. Back in their home villages, therefore, young men’s marriage chances are lower. Arranged marriages with foreigners fell in Taiwan after the government cracked down on them, but they continue to rise elsewhere.
In South Korea, one-seventh of marriages in 2005 were to “Kosians” (Korean-Asians). In rural areas, the share is higher:
If China or India were ever to import brides on
this scale, it would spread sexual catastrophe throughout Asia. As it is,
that catastrophe may be hard to avoid.
American and European marriage rates bounced back between 1945 and 1970. But Europe and America were different:
The Asian peculiarity is that marriage rates
have been eroding during a long boom. And as Asia gets richer, traditional
marriage patterns are only likely to unravel further.