Age at marriage is rising for Asian women and men, according to new data

Asia Pac Pop Policy. 1992 Sep;(22):1-4.


PIP: The social transformations in Asia are described: delayed age at marriage and the proportions marrying. Policy implications are ascertained. The norm for female age at marriage has risen from 15 years to 17-18 years in south Asia, and from 18 years to 24 years and older in east Asia. Men's marriage age has also risen but not as much. Concurrent changes have occurred with fertility declines and small family sizes and lower population growth, with changing roles for women, and with emergent youth subcultures and increased prevalence of premarital sexual behavior. The number of singles is rising and expected to continue to rise. Examples are given of marriage age changes for Nepal and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea, and regional totals. Southeast Asian countries experienced less dramatic changes, and changes primarily in the 20-24 year old group (from 30% to 74% of single women). Change for men has been less regular and with less magnitude. In Southeast Asia, the rise in marriage age for men has risen only 1-2 years compared with women. East Asia patterns vary by country, i.e., South Korean increases of 6 years, Taiwanese increases of 4 years, and 2 years in Japan. Single males have been common in South and Southeast Asia, while in East Asia married male teens 25 years are rare. Marriage timing for men is not as closely associated as for women with social and cultural change. Downturns for men follow momentous, temporary disruptions such as happen during wars and periods of migration, while women's patterns are more reflective of structural change. The trend for never marrying is on the increase, particularly for men in Japan (1.1% in the 1920s to 18% in the early 1980s for men 50 years). Women not ever marrying are increasing in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Hong Kong. Never marrying is common in urban or educated populations, i.e., Singapore, Thailand, and Philippines. The implications are a longer gap between successive generations and a shorter period of exposure to risk of conception. Research findings have shown that a 1 year delay in age at 1st marriage reduces fertility by 20% of a child. Schooling delays marriage age as well as marriage laws, but structural and economic changes may be more important than policy changes. Policies affect the status of women and opportunities.

MeSH terms

  • Asia
  • Asia, Eastern
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Demography
  • Developing Countries
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Marital Status
  • Marriage*
  • Politics
  • Population
  • Population Dynamics
  • Research*
  • Single Person*
  • Social Change*
  • Warfare*