Hong Kong's ever-increasing gender gap

Hong Kong's ever-increasing gender gap

Government projections say that women are set to outnumber men by one million in Hong Kong in the next 50 years.

HK women
Office workers walk along a Hong Kong street. (Photo: AFP/Frederic J. BROWN)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong has one of the world's widest gender gaps, but unlike countries like China or India, it is the women who outnumber men, not vice versa.

In the city of seven million, there are 200,000 more women than men. As a result, female competition for suitable partners can be intense and sometimes downright bizarre.

In 2011, a former banker wrote a book called “Life is too short to date men like me”, which detailed his conquests and warned women about so-called "players" such as himself.

There was also a dating advertisement that asked older local women to fork out US$600 for dinner with a foreign man, who would bear no cost at all. Rachael Chan, the matchmaker behind the advertisement which she said she now regrets producing, claims that the frustration that prompted the idea is more prevalent than ever.

"In Hong Kong, or Chinese society, the age really matters,” said Ms Chan of Rachael and Smith Matchmakers. “But if people studied overseas or they have an international background, usually they also care about (whether) you do a lot of sports, and can you carry on good conversation. Then the age would become part of the factor, not all of the reason."

If things are not already hard enough for women, the government said in its latest projections that the gap is set to widen even further over the next 50 years, with women outnumbering men by a whopping one million.

Experts believe that even though the female population in Hong Kong is better educated and is consequently is better paid, society as a whole still believes in the old Chinese notion that women should marry those with higher standing, and men should marry those with lower standing.

"The lower class men will look north to find women, because of their attraction to women of younger age, or women who are better educated, better looking, and they have a choice of women there; because of the status they bring when they meet the women from China," said Professor Angela Wong, co-director at the Gender Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Prof Wong said she is not worried about Hong Kong women who do not marry because without the need to play the traditional gender roles of caring for a husband and children, they might actually do better for themselves.

"Marriage is actually not helping women,” she said. “When women and men are not married, their career development is almost the same. Once they get married, the gap between single women and married women gets bigger."

But ask a matchmaker like Ms Chan and she will still tell you that marriage is the best life path to follow.

"When you have a partner, everything just gets easier, you have someone to look forward to,” said Ms Chan.

But for women in Hong Kong to feel less pressured having to choose between a career and a family, experts said that both men and women will need to update their perception of marriage and see it as a partnership of equals, not simply as a way for women to get ahead in life.

Source: CNA/yt