Saturday, April 25, 2015

When women say no ... troubles ahead for India's young males

A couple of years ago, when visiting with the folks, an extended family relative came by to spend some time with my parents.  As is often the case, the elders inquired about her daughter's marriage--whether there were any proposals in the works.

Her reply fascinated me.  Something I would not have imagined.  Her daughter was very particular that she did not want any "boy" who was outside India or had plans to work outside India for a long time.

Such a stand by a young woman, an IT professional herself, would have been next to impossible a few years ago.  For one, not wanting to live abroad for a long time,  For another, and more importantly, a young woman with an education and career holds the trump cards.  Unlike the old days when women were at the mercy of the prospective groom's and his parents' fancies, this young woman clearly laid out the rules for this matrimonial sequence.

I was reminded of that encounter when I read this in the Economist.  About the marriage squeeze in India (and in China as well.)  Forget the causes for now (those are discussed in the essay); one of the main causes I had recently discussed in this post.

The following chart should interest you:


The chart on the left is a projection of how many men will be around waiting to get married; more men than women.

How much more?
Mr Guilmoto calculates that, in China, for every 100 single women expected to marry in 2050-54 there could be as many as 186 single men (see chart); in India in 2060-64 the peak could be higher: 191 men for each 100 women. This assumes the sex ratio at birth does not change. But even if the ratio were to return to normal in 2020 (which is unlikely), the marriage squeeze would still be severe, peaking at 160 in China in 2030, and at 164 in India 20 years later.
A marriage squeeze of this intensity would be unknown in China and India and extraordinarily rare anywhere in history.
Quite a few bachelors not because it would be their choice to remain unmarried.

The effects will not be felt uniformly across the economic levels, however:
In India and China, women tend to “marry up”—illiterate women marry men with primary education; primary-school women marry men with secondary education; and so on. As a result, men at the bottom of the pyramid, and women at the apex, find it especially hard to find spouses. So the marriage squeeze does not affect everyone equally. It disproportionately hits illiterate men and does not do much to help graduate women
Which also means that the young woman from two years ago, given that she is yet to marry, now inches closer to a risk that she could become too highly qualified and too old for the traditional marriage process, especially because marriages are not arranged when the male is younger than the female.

Interesting complications, yes.


6 comments:

  1. What has that song got to do with your post except that you like girls either named Mallika or wearing mallipoo ? :):):)

    I have heard this argument many times before and don't buy it one bit. Even if statistics can determine marriageability, this has a fundamental flaw because it ignores the time dimension. Each year millions of boys and girls enter the "marriageable age". Even if the boys are more than the girls, the large supply every year ensures that there is no dearth. Art best there may be a "waiting period". Marriage is far more influenced by individual decisions to marry late or not marry at all, being selective about the type of spouse, geographical, familial factors etc etc. I am yet to see a single Indian or Chinese boy wanting to get married and not finding a girl, unless he has very exacting criteria.

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  2. You are dead wrong, my friend.

    The effects are already showing up, which is why locally there are even terms for it:
    "They are called guanggun (bare branches) in China, malang (aloof and loopy)in Haryana and chhara (a derogatory term for unmarried men) in Punjab."

    Remember a while ago about news stories of young men in Rajasthan and Haryana "importing" brides from as far away as West Bengal and Bihar, and sometimes that resulting from kidnapping?

    Rome wan't built in a day, and this marriage squeeze won't happen overnight. The article discusses the queueing effect, and how this will slowly build up. (Perhaps I accessed the magazine before you got your copy?) If you look at the chart, the divergence between eligible men and women is projected to widen only in the years to come--which is also why you personally have not seen anything yet. For now, the imbalance is too tiny to blip in our own personal radars.

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  3. Why the sex ratio gap?

    I read an article recently about Indian young women, particularly those more educated, demanding a say in their semi-arranged marriages, particularly a veto of the candidate, mostly because their education gives them more opportunities. Human rights groups are hailing the easing of strictness in arranged marriages - the girls now having the chance to refuse a potential mate - as a great advance. Perhaps the supply and demand of the transaction plays a part. This was not addressed in the article I read.

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  4. Oh yeah, it was in the NY Times. Quite an interesting one ...
    The supply and demand plays a huge role, yes.

    As for why the twisted sex ratio? A combination of two major issues: the sex selection at the fetus stage, and the rapidly decreasing fertility. Both are issues I have blogged a few times over the years. The good thing is that India has banned sex-identification. But, enough damage has been done.

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  5. Even though India has banned sex-identification, female foeticide is rampant. And the alarming thing is....its more prevalent among the educated masses. Then there's female infanticide as well.

    Professional females refusing to migrate abroad is very real. I have a few friends (and know of many more here in the US) who are 30+, single, and unable to attract brides from India, even though their requirements are relaxed on most fronts.

    You are remarkable - you blog on such a wide variety of topics....and they are data driven too.....I feel I take SO much more than I can ever give back.

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  6. Yes, the gender bias. Huge gender discrimination.

    Good luck to your friends ... if they relaxed their restrictions and got to a really open mind about long-term relationships with people who are not from the same language/caste/religion/, then I bet quite a few non-Indians will be delighted to get to know them and even get married to them ... but, ...

    Thanks for your compliments ;)

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