SOCIETY

Divorces soar and more remain unmarried in loveless Hong Kong

Government figures also show that more people remain unmarried amid work stresses, cramped homes and greater individualism

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 January, 2015, 2:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 2015, 4:44pm

Cramped apartments and hectic working hours are never conducive to romantic life - and the latest government figures put to rest any notion that love is blossoming in Asia's world city.

The Census and Statistics Department yesterday published a review of marriage and divorce trends in the city between 1991 and 2013, with figures showing a staggering increase in the number of divorces and a considerable uptick in the number of Hongkongers who have never been married.

During the 22-year period, the number of divorces jumped almost fourfold from 6,295 in 1991 to 22,271 in 2013, an increase that experts attribute to increasingly tense lifestyles and changing values.

"Housing is too small," said Anne Fong, the owner of Proposal Planner, a service which helps potential brides and grooms to pop the all-important question.

"If you have families of four or five living in a small house, the parents won't have enough freedom. They will keep arguing with each other, eventually leading to divorce," said Fong.

Long working hours were also problematic, said Fong, adding that stressful jobs and frequent overtime took a toll on family life.

The spike in divorce rates was particularly prominent among less educated Hongkongers, the figures showed.

For example, the divorce rate among men aged between 45 and 49 who were educated at most to primary level jumped from 1.9 per cent in 1991 to 6.9 per cent in 2011.

The shift was even more marked for women in the same category, with divorce rates soaring from 1.8 per cent in 1991 to 10.2 per cent in 2011.

A similar trend was evident through all age ranges.

The development marks a reversal of the trend seen in the 1990s, when divorce was more common among better educated couples, according to the census department.

For Sandy To Sin-chi, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Hong Kong, the rising divorce rate is underpinned by changing values and expectations.

"People are more individualistic now and both sexes want to pursue their own interests," To said.

"In the past, family was important and people were resigned to the fact that, once committed, that was it. Now people pursue their own goals and there might be conflict when a partner wants more freedom."

Adding to the sentiment that love is being lost, the survey also highlighted an upward trend in the number of Hongkongers abstaining from marriage.

In 2011, more than 910,000 females aged above 15 had never been married, up from around 595,000 in 1991. The number of males who had never married increased over the same period from 805,000 to 965,000.