Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Men without Women: South Korea and Taiwan Respond

The fate of countries and societies that choose to give preference to male births are topics that have come up often. Infanticide and selective abortion are the usual means by which imbalanced birth rates are maintained. One of the societal consequences of this policy is that a large number of men end up without the option of having a mate. This trend has raised all sorts of speculation as to the possible consequences, including world-wide wars and massive increases in female bondage in the sex trade.

The Economist produced a long article, The Flight from Marriage, which explores a number of demographic trends in Asia. The principle focus was on the tendency of Asian women to marry later in life—if at all. There are a number of factors contributing to this trend. It makes interesting reading, and probably will be discussed here in the future. The Asian countries are generally those with the greatest male-to-female ratios. This trend away from marriage can only exacerbate the problem of men not being able to find women to mate with. The article touches on this issue, briefly.

The article refers to a book edited by Melody Lu and Wen-Shan Yang, Asian Cross-Border Marriage Migration. These details are provided:

“....27% of Taiwanese marriages in 2002 involved foreign women; one in eight births that year was to a “mixed” family. Many girls are illiterate teenagers sold (in practice) by their families to older, richer foreigners. Back in their home villages, therefore, young men’s marriage chances are lower. Arranged marriages with foreigners fell in Taiwan after the government cracked down on them, but they continue to rise elsewhere.”

“In South Korea, one-seventh of marriages in 2005 were to “Kosians” (Korean-Asians). In rural areas, the share is higher: 44% of farmers in South Jeolla province who married in 2009 took a foreign bride.”

Note that these are cultures that have never taken kindly to “mixed” marriages and to children of mixed marriages—or to foreigners of any flavor. These could not have been easy decisions for the individuals involved to make. This is a trend that is bound to cause significant societal tension. The fact that this choice is already being made indicates that there is already considerable demographic pain being felt. If people in these relatively small countries have begun to act, can others be far behind?

The Economist reminds us that not all processes scale.

“If China or India were ever to import brides on this scale, it would spread sexual catastrophe throughout Asia. As it is, that catastrophe may be hard to avoid.”

This situation is going to get way too interesting.

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