Women all over the world love to complain about the dating scene in their city, but if you’ve ever been a single lady in Hong Kong, the struggle is real. This month, our Features Editor Julienne Raboca digs up the cold, hard facts and figures that many have felt but few have quantified.
Last July, the government’s Census and Statistics Department (Censtatd) published the 2017 Edition of their data on Women and Men in Hong Kong. Their findings reveal a skewed gender demographic, with 852 males per 1,000 females in the city. That means there are well over half a million women than men in a populace of 7.34 million.
“In particular, there have been more women than men in the age group 20-39 since 1996 and also in the 40-44 range since 2001,” the report goes.
The gender imbalance arises from three main causes, according to Professor Paul Yip, Chair of Population Health at The University of Hong Kong (HKU). “The first is migration and reunion – male immigrants bringing their spouses from mainland China. The second pertains to life expectancy – women in Hong Kong live longer. Finally you have the influx of domestic helpers, mostly female.”
However, not counting foreign domestic helpers, women still outnumber men by 7.5%. “It reflects a public health issue,” posits Professor John Bacon-Shone, Director of HKU’s Social Sciences Research Centre. “The numbers are partly an indication of males’ worse habits.” He cites the higher occurrence of male smokers as an example.
“Any imbalance disturbs the human ecology,” says Yip. “A city that can provide a healthy environment to set up a family reflects a stable ecosystem. When you look at societies with more households and couples, poverty is lower overall, compared to those with more singles.”
Yip also notes that single people are freer to move and travel, which makes them less dependable compared to family units.
“Men’s working participation rate is always higher,” adds Yip. “So when you have more women, the labour force will be affected, impacting Hong Kong’s economy.”
However, much is set to change in a silver lining that feminists would cheer. “If women remain single, they need to support themselves financially,” says Yip. “The educational attainment level is also improving – women are becoming more independent and employable.”
Let’s hope the recalibration translates into wage equalization as well; currently, men make HK$4,000 more than women per month on average.
Meanwhile, on the marriage front, Yip observes a female emigration. “Some women are leaving Hong Kong to find husbands,” he says. “The few hundreds to few thousands of women are not sitting here waiting to get married.”
“Hong Kong’s dating scene is tough,” says Nancy, who asked Gafencu not to use her real name. “It’s a very transient place, and it’s tough to find someone you have chemistry with but who also wants to settle down.”
Now in her early thirties, Nancy moved five years ago from London to Hong Kong – where her father was born. “The ratio is real,” she says. “My guy friends say it’s easier for them to meet women, but they have a lot of single girl friends who have trouble meeting the right guy.
“Girls do have a harder time because of the imbalance on top of the economic pressure to find someone who is financially stable – it’s a very expensive city. More women are choosing not to settle.”
Nancy, whose background is in law and finance, says she didn’t feel too much pressure in her twenties, but as she approached her thirties, her parents got particularly anxious.
“My mum tried to pressure me into meeting this divorced single man in his mid-40s with a 7-year-old daughter,” she says. “It was pretty humiliating. The man had a questionable career and has lived in a town with less than 1,000 people most of his life. In his defence, he was nice, but we were worlds apart.”
For the past three years, Nancy says she stepped back from dating as she changed track from finance to art. Upon a friend’s encouragement, she recently downloaded the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel.
“The guys have been nice so far,” she relents despite early hesitations due to the stigma and horror stories preceding apps like Tinder.
We ask her if she’s ready to meet “The One”. “I don’t really pressure myself,” she says. “If I meet someone along the way doing what I love and living the life I want to live, then fantastic. If not, it doesn’t matter so much.
“I fear being trapped in a loveless relationship more than being alone,” she continues. “Being in a relationship doesn’t guarantee happiness. It should not be seen as a superior status to ‘being single’.”
Text: Julienne C. Raboca