More women than men opt for the single life

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am

Females who do marry and have children are doing so at a later age, official statistics confirm

More women than men are choosing to stay single and those who do decide to marry and have children are doing so at a later age than before, the latest government figures have confirmed.

Figures released yesterday by the Census and Statistics Department in a report entitled Women and Men in Hong Kong show that the number of women who had never been married rose 47 per cent in the past 20 years.

The number of men who had never married increased by 11.7 per cent over the same period. Those who did opt for marriage did so at a later stage.

In 1981, the median age at first marriage for women and men was 23.9 and 27 respectively. Last year, this was 28 and 31.2. The report attributed this trend to people entering the job market at a later age as they spent more time on education.

Women are having their first babies later in life. Last year, the median age for women to have their first born was 29.2, compared with 25.1 in 1981.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of women opting to live alone. The figures for 2002 show that 127,001 women chose to live alone - a rise of 119 per cent compared with 1986 - while the corresponding figure for men rose 26 per cent to 162,031.

The number of single mothers rose markedly, from 23,059 in 1991 to 45,072 in 2001, while single fathers rose from 11,479 in 1991 to 13,388 in 2001. The largest proportion of single parents was in the 40-49 age group for both sexes.

In Hong Kong last year, there were still more women than men. There were 3.6 million women, compared with 3.33 million men. This was due to an influx of female mainland one-way permit holders and foreign domestic helpers, according to the report.

The report said that the ratio between men to women had fallen, from 1,001 men for every 1,000 women in 1996 to 921 men for every 1,000 women last year.

Despite the larger number of females, consistently more boys than girls were born over the past 10 years. Last year, 27,218 girls and 29,880 boys were born. In 1996, this was 30,627 and 32,667.

On the whole, the figures appeared to show that the level of educational attainment by women was lower than men. Last year, 70.5 per cent of the women aged over 15 had attended secondary education, while 78.2 per cent of men had done so.

'However, this was because the figures included older-generation women who generally had a smaller chance of receiving education when they were young,' the report said.

Jo Lee Wai-yee, of the Society for the Study of Sexualities and Sexual Politics, said the report had merely documented a phenomenon that had been emerging for years. 'This has to do with a shift in values. Many women put priority on their studies and careers over the concept of marriage and families.'