April 30, 2016 08:13
One in six men is likely to have a hard time finding a wife this year as the gender ratio for singles of marriageable age is worsening, according to a study by the Chosun Ilbo.
The ratio of the male and female populations in Korea at first marriage age -- 28-35 for men and 26-33 for women -- is the worst ever.
The population of men born between 1981 and 1988 is 14.5 percent or 370,000 higher than of women born between 1983 and 1990.
The gap is largely attributed to the preference for boys that was prevalent only until recently.
The number of marriages per 1,000 population has been declining for the past three years, coupled with a drop in the marrying population in their 20s and 30s and rising youth unemployment.
The gender ratio is expected to worsen until 2018 and stabilize somewhat between 2019 to 2024, then worsen again from 2025 to 2037, when there will be over 10 percent more men at first marriage age than women.
◆ Preference for Boys
The reason is that the traditional preference for male heirs was compounded by rampant abortions of female fetuses once ultrasound technology became available in the late 1980s.
An average of 30,000 female fetuses were aborted each year.
This preference has had the boomerang effect of increased competition among men in the job market, high unemployment among young men and a low birthrate.
According to UN statistics, the sex ratio in Korea or number of baby boys for every 100 baby girls stood at 107 from 1950 to 1984 compared to the world average of 106. But it jumped to 114 from 1985 to 1995, making the nation the first in the world where over 10 percent more boys than girls were born.
Prof. Kim Han-gon of Yeungnam University said, "The government's aggressive pursuit of family planning backfired because abortions of baby girls became rampant."
Korea's sex ratio has now dropped back to 105.
That means the shortage of brides will stabilize for about six years after 2019 but worsen again starting in 2025. During 2030 to 2033, when the millennials reach first marriage age, there will be 20 percent more marriageable men than women, so one in five men could end up failing to find a spouse.
The number of couples where the bride is older than the groom is also expected to rise steeply.
◆ Negative Repercussions
Experts say a recent surge in sexism in Korean society is influenced largely by this imbalance. In other words, men who are unable to find a girlfriend or wife grow frustrated and vent against women.
Another problem is the rising number of undereducated and poorly paid men having a hard time finding brides. International marriages, which declined from around 30,000 a year to some 10,000, are expected to increase again.
"Men who fail to find female mates often grow more violent, and this may lead to a rise in sexual assaults," Cho Yong-tae at Seoul National University said.
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