China has a surplus of men while Hong Kong, its semi-autonomous neighbor to the south, has too many women, according to new data from the Hong Kong government. That’s because mainland Chinese women have been increasingly marrying wealthier men in Hong Kong, often for the sake of a residency in Hong Kong where education and healthcare are seen as better.
Hong Kong should actually have more men than women: Since the 1980s, more boys than girls have been born. But an influx of foreign domestic workers as well as mainland Chinese brides has tilted the gender balance. Currently there are 864 men for every 1,000 women (pdf, p. xxv), down from 1,087 per 1,000 as recently as 1981. Hong Kong’s deputy commissioner for census and statistics has predicted the overall sex ratio could widen to 788 men per 1,000 women by 2026, and 712 men per 1,000 women by 2041.
The result is that as many as 24 million Chinese men may be short of a partner by 2020, and in Hong Kong, the proportion of unmarried women to unmarried men been steadily growing—in 2013, 55.7% of women over the age of 15 were married compared to 61% of men of the same age, according to the Hong Kong government’s latest batch of data. Paul Yip, a demographer at the University of Hong Kong, said in 2012 that one in five women born in Hong Kong can expect to stay single for the rest of their lives.
The trend may be starting to move slowly in the other direction, helped in part by a slew of dating agencies specializing in finding Hong Kong women potential spouses across the border. The number of marriages between Hong Kong men and mainland women may have reached a plateau—they have hovered around an estimated 20,000 (pdf, p. 43) per year since 2011—while unions between Hong Kong women and mainland men have been growing; they rose by almost a third to 7,507 last year, from 5,867 in 2011.
“There are fewer and fewer differences between Hong Kong and the mainland,” said one Hong Kong woman (link in Chinese) who married a suitor from Hangzhou and moved to his hometown. “And in some ways, quality of life here is better.”