Scales tip as women outnumber men

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 February, 2007, 12:00am

Census also shows fewer weddings, more females in the workplace and more men taking mainland wives

The changing gender ratio means there are now fewer men than women in Hong Kong.

A decade ago, the sexes were equal in number. Now, there are only 961 men for every 1,000 women.

If foreign domestic helpers are included in the calculation, the figure falls even lower - to 911 men for every 1,000 women, according to results of the government's 2006 by-census.

Statistics released yesterday showed many men were turning to the mainland for wives, as more Hong Kong women chose careers over husbands.

Commissioner for Census and Statistics Fung Hing-wang said of 50,300 marriages registered in Hong Kong last year, 18,000 involved men who brought brides from the mainland. A further 10,000 men obtained certificates of absence of marriage so they could get married on the mainland.

Mr Fung said the number of marriages had declined over the past 10 years and the proportion of women who never married increased from 28.9 per cent in 1996 to 30.7 per cent last year. The proportion of unmarried men was higher, at 34.3 per cent last year, a slight increase on the 34.2 per cent recorded in 1996.

He described the educational achievement of women over the past 10 years as 'particularly remarkable'. In 1996, 83.6 per cent of women aged 15 to 44 had attended secondary school or higher levels, but that had risen to 92.8 per cent by last year.

More women were also going to work, with 52.4 per cent of women of working age employed last year, compared to 49.2 per cent a decade ago. Although lower than the number of male workers - which stood at 69.2 per cent last year - the rate of men in the workforce had fallen from 76.6 per cent in 1996.

Felix Yip, vice-president of development of the Hong Kong People Management Association, said he was not surprised by the increasing numbers of women in the workforce, especially at the managerial or professional level.

'We're seeing more women in business schools. They're getting better academic results and are more detail oriented than their male counterparts,' he said.

Statistician Paul Yip Siu-fai, a senior lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, said gender imparity would put pressure on society. He said it would lead to fewer marriages and an even lower birth rate.

'Unlike France, where 70 per cent of children are born out of wedlock, Hong Kong almost has none. And it is human nature to have a partner. It will mean more physical and mental health problems with so many people failing to get married,' he said.

Women's rights crusader Yolanda Ng Yuen-ting said: 'Women now have the choice to have good jobs and to save money and to prepare for retirement, so they can be financially secure when they become elderly.'