Archive | September, 2011

The unmarriage-ables: Domestic trends in Asia

11 Sep
Mike sent me two articles from the Economist concerning marriage in Asia, asking what I thought. An issue that fascinates sociologists, demographers and troubles policy makers today. These articles I found quite insightful on our current situation.
Asia’s Lonely Hearts: Women are rejecting marriage in asia. The social implications are serious.

[Asian Demography] The Flight from Marriage: Asians are marrying later, and less, than in the past. This has profound implications for women, traditional family life and Asian politics

This is what I wrote back to him (unedited, except for the parts in brackets, so sorry if it reads a bit cut-off):

The situation

Considering our culture, a lot of women are viewing marriage as a certain step towards childbearing and a graveyard towards careers.
Many women would rather wait for ‘true love’ or men of higher income/education/height than self… which hardly ever manifests considering how much more capable women have become and how many men at that stage of success are already attached (for men, the Chinese proverb is: first establish a family, then a career).

(My estimation of my marriage age was of 27 or 29, before I met you.)

One of the things that the statistic is not showing, despite lower rates of cohabitation, there may be higher rates of extra-martial relationships, especially among married men with single women… most women with the hopes that the man will leave his wife to marry her – a very rare manifestation. [this may be anecdotally derived]

In actuality, married men usually have a harder time attracting single females into sexual trysts. For example: a recent case reported in a tabloid was of a famous Taiwanese online political pundit seducing several women while concealing the fact that he was already married. The women distanced themselves upon the revelation:

廖小貓已婚 騙女網友嘿咻拍淫照 (Chinese)

However, considering the fact that extra-marital sex is still considered taboo (despite growing popularity), most cases are neither reported or self-reported.

Middle aged single asian women are often deeply conflicted: in psychological denial (“who cares about men? Being single is great!”), and feeling a lack of “adequate” men combined with a deep sense of shame for not being able to attract a quality man. Many of these women (as mentioned in the article) thus look for foreign sources. A handsome foreigner is usually a credit enough to wedding pictures (better image to family), more chivalrous than native men, and more likely to offer a life of domestic equality, to warrant being allowed a lower standard (less income, less prestigious job, less education, sometimes even height) compared to what women hold for native men.

From what the article shows, it seems that Japan went through a sexual revolution in the 1970s. May partially be due to breakdown of traditional family structures – single daughters leaving home to work in the city (due to lower individual income that requires daughters to make their own living), and apartments in the city being more expensive, so cohabitation makes economic sense.

In an age of free love, women more frequently require not only status, but social skills (wooing capacity) in men. This is a tall order for many coddled sons and technology nerds. So though many low-status men (for lack of a better term, including low-prestige careers and disabled men) are getting mail-order brides, there are also a great deal of socially awkward, high-status men who are resorting to this as well, instead of facing the fright of trying to woo a demanding, articulate, sophisticated Taiwanese woman.

(Remember the woman who helped us with our ID photos when we were registering at the household registration office? She is an imported bride. Also, before leaving, I saw another man going in the HR office with HIS mail-order bride. )

[According to the Taiwan Central Census Bureau, between January and October of 2010:

  • Total couples married: 112,020
  • –> Couples with foreign spouse: 17,534
  • –> Among couples with foreign spouse, 11,019 (62.84% of total foreign spouse) were from China; 2,284 from Indonesia; 704 from Japan                 ]

Result: a lot of new soap operas depicting the plight of the middle-aged, single woman.

Hottest Taiwan soap opera right now? One depicting an extra-marital relationship leading to divorce and remarriage to ‘other woman’. This has led to a slight validation of ‘the other’, phrased as a semi-joke in popular slang. “小三“

I blogged about China’s situation a few years ago: “China’s skewed gender ratio hitting the roof”

I was writing this as I was reading, so noticed that authors covered main points I was making later on in article.

Hostility against singles arising is not something I’m seeing a trend of in Taiwan, as it seems to be in Japan for terming them ‘parasite singles’. It sounds reasonable, though, considering the heightening risk singles pose to established marriages. One of my male friends who has declared an intent to party and never marry, said that he kept finding himself in situations where many quality (pretty) women he met who flirted with him were already attached.

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.

Two of the above are already in the works in China. One of the rising crimes there involves females (married or not) being kidnapped and sold as brides or slaves (with benefits); in some rural areas a family of males would share one ‘wife’ in between them (brothers and sometimes including the father). I would expect a greater value/respect for such rare merchandise, but it does not seem to be the case. Instead, the trend seems to be towards more risk to and subjugation of the fairer sex.


[I think] One of the solutions to this: changing perceptions of the traditional roles of women in marriage. An attractively marketed soap opera depicting a married woman having career independence, equal status in family (both couples take equal household and child-rearing responsibility) may work somewhat towards changing perception.

Also, about this passage from article:

Compared with the West, Asian countries have invested less in pensions and other forms of social protection, on the assumption that the family will look after ageing or ill relatives. That can no longer be taken for granted.

—> Very Important Point.

[Questions about passages from article]:

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.

I don’t understand this part though – why is marriage among those with just a secondary education lower in America and Europe?

If China or India were ever to import brides on this scale, it would spread sexual catastrophe throughout Asia.

What is this “Sexual Catastrophe”?

Edit 2011, Nov 29th

After writing the above post on an HSR trip down to KH (during which there was no internet), I looked up some statistics on the government website on foreign spouse rates…etc. Some of the statistics were noted above. But for a more comprehensive look at the statistics, My Kafkaesque Life has done a much more thorough job. Please see his post here: