Marriage lines

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 2000, 12:00am

Marriage may be going out of fashion here, as it appears to be doing all over the developed world, but that does not signal the death of romance.

If anything, it could be because couples are more intent on finding the kind of love they think will last a lifetime - they prefer to take their time before getting tied down. Or it may just be, as social scientists believe, that the woman of the new millennium wants to establish herself on the career ladder before she turns her thoughts to connubial bliss. That will enable her to support herself if things go wrong and ensures the household is financially sound.

To be honest, marriage has not enjoyed a good press recently. The stories that make headlines feature mainland mistresses, extramarital affairs and domestic violence. Happy families have no history. Too many local families have more history than they care to admit. No wonder young people are not rushing to make their union permanent.

This is a materialistic, sexually emancipated age. Couples can enjoy the benefits of marriage without feeling the shackles tightening. Parents beyond the 60s generation are not likely to recoil in shock if their eldest declares an intention to set up home with a long-time date. Other more practical couples delay marriage until they can afford a flat, so the recession has put many weddings on hold.

If that means older mothers, fewer children and more geriatrics, it makes the fuss about mainland migrants look silly. By 2016, 13 per cent of the population will be over 65, and the burden on welfare services will be immense. The SAR is fortunate in being able to call on new blood from over the border. Those children will help restore the population balance to something more sustainable than, say, Singapore, where there is no easy answer to the problems caused by late marriage and a dwindling birthrate.