Hong Kong is on the cusp of a young woman shortage

For many years, Hong Kong’s women have been warned about the city’s dearth of men—a demographic disaster that threatens to leave thousands of middle-aged women childless spinsters.

But the city’s young people are actually facing the reverse scenario: Hong Kong is facing an imminent shortage of young women, according to the latest data from the Census and Statistics Department (pdf, pg. 9). Excluding foreign domestic helpers—the hundreds of thousands of mostly-female temporary residents who rarely marry in Hong Kong—males outnumber women in every age group below 25:


While Hong Kong’s overall birth rate has also dropped dramatically, the male/female split is sizable. There are more than 16,000 more males than females under age 10 age groups, for example.

What’s going on here? Experts say Hong Kong’s change in sex ratio switch isn’t homegrown.

“The difference is arising from the birth from non-local mothers,” said Paul Yip, a professor at Hong Kong University’s School of Social Work and Social Administration. Mothers who are Hong Kong natives give birth to 105 sons per 100 daughters (about on par with the global average), while mothers who are classified as “non-local” give birth to 120 sons per 100 daughters, he told Quartz.

Mainland Chinese mothers are the leading “non-local” nationality, representing 40% of the total. And out-of-whack gender ratios reflect the mainland norm, where sex selection has only risen in recent years despite dire warnings about the social and economic consequences of a country with millions of extra men. There are 1.06 men for every woman aged 15 to 64 in mainland China, 1.13 males per female under the age of 15, and 1.18 males born for every female in 2010.

Choosing the gender of your baby via in vitro fertilization is illegal in Hong Kong as well as on the mainland, as is sex-selective abortion. But the companies in Hong Kong who act as sex-selection middlemen, sending local couples to doctors in the US and Thailand, are reportedly doing a booming business.


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