In South Asia and China marriage remains near-universal, with 98% of men and women tying the knot.
In contrast, in some Western countries, a quarter of people in their 30s are cohabiting or have never been married, while half of new marriages end in divorce.
That is past the point at which women were traditionally required to marry in many Asian societies. The mean age of marriage has risen by five years in some East Asian countries in three decades, which is a lot.
The second change is that, among certain groups, people are not merely marrying later. In 2010 a third of Japanese women entering their 30s were single. In 2010 37% of all women in Taiwan aged 30-34 were single, as were 21% of 35-39-year-olds.
Most East and South-East Asian countries report little or no cohabitation.
The exception is Japan where, among women born in the 1970s, about 20% say they have cohabited with a sexual partner. In surveys between 19, just 1-7% of single women said they had lived with a partner.
If women are unmarried entering their 40s, they will almost certainly neither marry nor have a child.To simplify: in South Asia it is traditional to have arranged, early marriages, in which men are dominant and the extended family is important.East Asia also has a male-dominated system, but one that stresses the nuclear family more; nowadays it has abandoned arranged marriages.The share of unmarried women in their 30s in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong has risen 20 points or more (see chart below), “a very sharp change in a relatively short period”, says Gavin Jones of the National University of Singapore.In Thailand, the number of women entering their 40s without being married increased from 7% in 1980 to 12% in 2000.
The Asian avoidance of marriage is new, and striking.