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Asia's Shortage Of Brides Stirs Social Upheaval Around Region

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Asia's shortage of brides stirs social upheaval around region
Fewer girl babies and educated women who resist marriage are altering societies

By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun - October 31, 2011

As the world's population passes seven billion, there is growing unease in Asia about the social and economic implications of a dramatic shortage of women and a disinclination among educated young females to submit themselves to a life of traditional wifely duties.

The problem of shortages of women is particularly acute in India and China, where cultural preferences for boys - and in the case of China, a vigorously enforced one-child policy - has led to millions of abortions of female fetuses.

Left to itself, nature produces from 104 to 106 boy children for every 100 girls because fewer boys survive childhood.

But sex-selective abortion in India has resulted in 112 boys being born for every 100 girls, and in China the ratio is about 120 to 100. The direct repercussions of this imbalance are bad enough, with at least 30 million Chinese men of marriageable age with no women candidates available. There is a vast criminal industry in China kidnapping women in neighbouring countries like Burma and Vietnam, and even from among the female factory workers in coastal China to sell to womenless men, who tend to be poor peasant farmers.

But this problem is compounded by some abrupt social changes in the rich and developed countries and jurisdictions of Asia such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.

There, years of investment in the education and training of girls and young women have produced a generation for which economic independence and career satisfaction have greater appeal than marriage and child-bearing in cultures where male supremacy is still prevalent.

As a result, men in these industrialized countries who can't find willing local women often turn to marriage brokers who for a substantial fee - $10,000 or more - arrange unions with young women from less-developed parts of Asia.

But this trade, which is often the crude trafficking in women with a very thin veneer of respectability, tends to compound the problem of the gap between male and female populations in the developing countries.

For example, by far the largest sources of bartered brides in the Far East are China and Vietnam, which already have major shortages of women of their own.

China provides from 32 per cent to 70 per cent of the foreign brides for the three main importing countries, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand are the next largest sources, though Cambodia has also been drawn into the market.

Last year, the Phnom Penh government became so concerned by evidence of Cambodian women being forceably trafficked by unscrupulous brokers that it embargoed international marriages to South Koreans.

A new study of the foreign bride phenomenon in five jurisdictions in Asia done by Soohyung Lee for the Samsung Economic Research Institute in South Korea has found that the practice is growing steadily, and that the economic and social implications for the region are profound.

Lee found that in 1991 fewer than one per cent of brides in South Korea came from foreign countries, but in 2007 that percentage had risen to eight.

Over roughly the same period in Japan the percentage of foreign brides rose from two to five. In Taiwan, the number of foreign brides is 22 per cent and in Hong Kong it is 39 per cent, up from two per cent in 1991.

In both those cases the foreign brides are almost exclusively from China, though since Hong Kong's return to Beijing's sovereignty in 1997 the imported brides are culturally alien rather than technically so.

Lee found that the main reason why there are significant numbers of men in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan who cannot find local brides is the improved education and career opportunities for women.

But because the cultural expectations that they bear the main burden of household management and child rearing have not changed, many women feel they face an either-or choice and opt for their careers.

Lee, an economics professor at the University of Maryland, found that the Asian market in foreign brides is highly interconnected, volatile and easily disrupted, especially by government regulations or other interventions.

From this she speculates that other changes, such as the economic rise of China leading to young women finding acceptably rich husbands at home, may have serious consequences on the prospects for family life of unmarried men in other parts of Asia.

Lee also documents what is often evident: that the imported foreign brides are usually far less well-educated than their husbands.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Source: http://www.{censored}/business/Asia...ial+upheaval+around+region/5632114/story.html


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