The Blog

Is Your City Making You Single?

Single Londoners often bemoan the fact that people are not in London for the long haul. They say that people come here and plan to stay for just a few years to focus on work and their careers before going back to their hometowns or countries, so "it's never the right time" is a regular dating issue.

Being in a big city certainly brings its advantages: there are great job opportunities and plenty of places to eat, drink and socialise. With thousands of single, ambitious and good-looking people on your doorstep, some might argue that dating will be easy and it is inevitable that you will meet someone special and eventually settle down.

However, many people claim the opposite is true and say it is actually harder to meet someone when you are single in big cities like London, Hong Kong and Singapore for a number of reasons. So what is the truth? Is your city making you single?

London: A transient city?

Single Londoners often bemoan the fact that people are not in London for the long haul. They say that people come here and plan to stay for just a few years to focus on work and their careers before going back to their hometowns or countries, so "it's never the right time" is a regular dating issue. Combined with the fact that many people are already married to their careers and there are so many distractions, lots of single Londoners blame the culture of the city, where everything moves quickly.

However, actually the opposite is true, at least for women, if you pay attention to the statistics. According to census figures analysed by the Future Foundation, single women looking for a partner should find love in London. Looking at the "singles gap" they say a higher proportion of single women live in urban areas. Nationally, a higher proportion of single women aged 18-64 live in urban areas, at 99 per 100 men. For women the two hotspots are in the city, where there is there are 155 men per 100 women in the City of London, and 126 men per 100 women in the borough of Newham. However for men, there is a higher ratio of single men to women in rural areas, such as the Isles of Scilly, Suffolk and Cumbria, so London is not the best place to be.

However, we know that it is not so much a numbers games as attitudes to dating. Recently the results of Time Out's Global dating Survey, which spoke to over 11,000 people across the world about their thoughts and ideas about dating. Only 55 in 100 people felt London was the best city in the world for dating, putting it in sixth place behind Paris in the top spot, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Chicago, so perhaps the age old grumbles about careers and bad timing are on-going problems when it comes to meeting Mr or Mrs Right?

Changing attitudes to dating and marriage in Singapore

In Singapore, rather than it being difficult to meet people, it is attitudes that are changing and many women are staying single by choice, or dating casually rather than seriously.

Statistics show that singlehood is on the rise if measured by the proportion of women still single in their 20s. Traditionally a city where women would settle down in their 20s or even earlier, increasingly women are staying single into their 30s and beyond. They are better educated and a third of 30-34-year-old Singaporean university graduates are single. Better education and more women with degrees has opened up the job market and now women are more independent financially and therefore happier to be on their own. Like in London, having a busy working life also plays a part in struggling to find time to date, with a recent survey finding that 46 per cent of people saying a hectic working life makes it difficult to date.

However, for some women as they get older, they say they are struggling to find the right match and find dating futile. A recent survey showed that single women were often attracting men who were already spoken for because men do not believe in marrying late and if they do marry past the age of 35, they are often looking for younger women. The survey found that 55 per cent of single women will give up looking for a life partner after the age of 40, because they face less social pressure to get married.

General trends in Asia

Changing attitudes towards dating and marriage in Singapore are true of all Asian countries, including Hong Kong. Like Singapore, people are getting married much later and the in the richest parts of Asia - Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong - the mean age for wedlock is 29-30 for women and 31-33 for men. This is past the point where women traditionally tied the knot and is later than in the West. Now 27 per cent of 30-34 year old women in Hong Kong are unmarried, with men complaining they are on a "marriage strike".

Alongside increased levels of education and opportunity, comes the desire for the best-educated women to "marry up" and date and marry a man of higher income and education. This inevitably leaves fewer potential partners, and lower-income men feel intimidated by the earning power of a new generation of women. Traditionally women also give up work when they get married and this has reduced the attractiveness of family life compared with work. In a survey from Japan's three largest cities, only two-thirds of women felt positive about marriage, far less than their husbands; whereas in European countries husbands and wives report similar levels of satisfaction.

So with marriage less of a goal for many, it seems attitudes in Asia towards dating have relaxed. In a recent survey 30 per cent of Hong Kongers said they would date two people at the same time. But this does not mean translate into pre-sex marriage - 48 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men said they would never have sex before marriage.

What can we do?

So far from finding it easier to date because we are living in a big city, how can we encourage romance and relationships? This is such a huge issue that it is almost impossible to scratch the surface but in my opinion, women need to have more choices regarding work and family. Women should not be made to feel that they must give up their jobs after marrying or having a child or that that they won't progress in their chosen careers. In the UK while much has been done to make it easier for working mums, many women still claim they don't feel like they are being treated equally and Asian countries clearly need to redress the balance.

While technology makes dating easier and quicker, we should focus more on talking to each other in person and rather than spending hours communication over the net, one-to-one dates should become more of a priority. In Asian countries in particular, physical relationships are dwindling with technology filling the gap.

Ultimately, nothing can fill the void of a loving partnership, so if you are looking to date more, give a wider variety of people a chance, date often, have fun and I hope that you find love.

Author: Brett Harding is the director of Lovestruck, a website dedicated to online dating and bringing people together.