Does Australia have a man-drought? (My ABC interview)

I mentioned last time that the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) had asked to interview me for a story they were doing on Christian women like myself who were still single into their 30s and 40s in light of statistics showing a slump in the male-female population ratio.

That article, and the accompanying video, by journalist Karen Tong came out a couple of days ago. I reproduce it here:

At 32 years of age, Anna Hitchings expected to be married with children by now.

But over the past year, she has found herself grappling with a realisation that she may never tie the knot.

“But that’s a reality I have to deal,” she says. “It no longer seems impossible that I may never marry. In fact, some might argue it may even be likely.” 

The “man drought” is a demographic reality in Australia — for every 100 women, there are 98.6 men. 

The gender gap widens if you’re a Christian woman hoping to marry a man who shares the same beliefs and values. 

The proportion of Australians with a Christian affiliation has dropped drastically from 88 per cent in 1966, to just over half the population in 2016 — and women are more likely than men to report being Christian (55 per cent, compared to 50 per cent).

Ms Hitchings is Catholic. 

She grew up in the Church and was a student at Campion College, a Catholic university in Sydney’s western suburbs, where she now works. 

“I’m constantly meeting other great women, but it seems to be quite a rare thing to meet a man on the same level who also shares our faith,” she says.*

“The ideal is to marry somebody else who shares your values because it’s just easier.”

But not sharing the same faith isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.

Her sister is married to an agnostic man and while “he’s great and we love him”, Ms Hitchings is quick to admit there were some difficult conversations that needed to take place early on.

Like abstaining from sex before marriage — something that, as a Catholic, she doesn’t want to compromise on.

“It’s very difficult to find men who are even willing to entertain the notion of entering into a chaste relationship.”

Ms Hitchings has dated Catholic and non-Catholic men. 

Her first serious relationship was with a Catholic guy — they were both students at Campion College, and she was sure he was “the one”. 

“I don’t think I’d ever met anybody who I shared such a profoundly strong connection with, and he was the first person that I fell in love with,” she says.

He was a few years younger than her, and after coming to the realisation they were in “different places in life”, they decided to part ways. 

They remained friends and though he eventually married someone else, Ms Hitchings says she learned a lot from the relationship.

“I think I just thought that if you find someone that you love and get along with, everything will be fine — and that’s not true,” she says.

You do have to work on yourself, you do have to sacrifice a lot to make a relationship work.”

The marriage rate in Australia has been in decline since 1970, and both men and women are waiting longer before getting married for the first time. 

The proportion of marriages performed by ministers of religion has also declined from almost all marriages in 1902 (97 per cent), to 22 per cent in 2017.

Despite these cultural shifts regarding marriage in Australia, single women in the Church — and outside it — still face the stigma of singledom. 

Ms Hitchings often feels that when someone is trying to set her up on a date, “they just see me as the single person they need to get married”.

“There are a lot of anxieties that you can feel — you can feel like you’re pathetic or there’s something wrong with you,” she says.

On the other hand, the Church has also provided a place of hope and empowerment for single women, giving those like Ms Hitchings the confidence to live a life that doesn’t start and end with marriage.

“I very much hope I do get married — I really hope that happens — but I don’t believe that my life is meaningless or purposeless if I don’t get married either.”

Read the full article here.

I’m having trouble getting the video up, but if I can manage it, I’ll upload it here too.

*This is a slight misquotation. What I actually said, or at least inferred, was “I’m constantly meeting other great women, but it seems to be quite a rare thing to meet a man who I can talk to on the same level who also shares our faith”.

5 thoughts on “Does Australia have a man-drought? (My ABC interview)

  1. From what I’ve read about this “man drought” in other places, it’s mainly a shortage of “economically eligible” men.
    While you may think yourself to be somewhat different, Ms Hitchings, I think you need to address the issue of women wanting to close the so-called gender gap and earn the same as men, while simultaneously expecting to marry a man who earns more than them.

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    1. Since neither I, nor any of the people I hang around with, share this opinion I really don’t know what I’d say. I only write about about topics I have some knowledge and/or experience of. With something like this I would just be projecting.

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  2. Umm, thing that strikes me, is stats. So there is a man drought? When the actual difference in men:women is 1.4%? (98.6 men : 100 women) and for Christians a 5% gap? (50% Christian men : 55% Christian women) That’s not a huge gap, suggesting there are other factors causing lack of marriages, not gender ratio issues.
    Dmitri is kinda right though – there has been some coverage of the fact that women are ‘upwardly mobile’ in their marriage/dating expectations. And with women outperforming men at all levels of education, and hence getting more professional (and often better paid) jobs than a typical male the same age, the gals are looking for the tiny proportion of men ‘at their level’ (I know, I know, who you can talk to you at your level 😉 ) That is not blaming the ladies; just raising it as a more significant factor than the perceived ‘man drought’.
    But the truly revealing stat is the proportion married by a priest – down to just 22%. When you realise many of these are the couples that had to open a map to find the church, it shows how few practise their faith, which means their Christianity is not really a factor in helping them *find* another Christian to marry (but may be an attribute they want when they find a person they otherwise like).
    So when we in the church are starting from a tiny base of prospective spouses, the church should help a bit more in bringing people together; not match make, but give opportunity to meet and get to know peers in the church (cos at the moment its needle in a haystack territory). A key thing would be telling Christians the church teaches they should normally date & marry a Catholic/Christian get them focused on someone who will help them become a saint.
    Finally, I do note my observation is there is a disparity between census or survey figures of who say they are Christians/Catholics, and the proportion of men: women who actually show at church regularly. For Euro ethnicity, some single men, but virtually no women, in any parish. More equal for minority ethnic groups though.

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  3. Quick survey – try asking married couples:
    – did you meet each other at church? (or through a church contact)
    – did you get married in a church?
    – how often did you go to church in the year before marriage? did you do a church marriage prep course? (tells you if they just married in church for a sentimentally Christian wedding)
    – are either or both spouses Christian at time of wedding? (tells you if Christians are dating/marrying outside potential church spouses)
    – awkward question – were you sleeping or living together prior to wedding? were there kids before wedding? (ie was it a regularisation wedding, which is a good thing if kids involved, but shows whether they were viable Christian dating options up to time of wedding)
    etc
    Sadly, bishops and parishes don’t seem to collect or publicise this data it seems…

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  4. Her sister is married to an agnostic man and while “he’s great and we love him”, Ms Hitchings is quick to admit there were some difficult conversations that needed to take place early on.
    Like abstaining from sex before marriage — something that, as a Catholic, she doesn’t want to compromise on.
    “It’s very difficult to find men who are even willing to entertain the notion of entering into a chaste relationship.”

    I now understand your difficulties a lot better. Forswearing pre-marital sex is an indication of a serious faith commitment, but it will dramatically shrink your potential pool of partners. Getting to your 30s after having dated secular people while maintaining that commitment is pretty incredible.
    I saw a few of your interviews on YouTube and I’ll admit I was skeptical of your situation before reading this. Yes, you are 32…but still attractive and also smart, well-spoken, etc. I just couldn’t believe you had a shortage of suitors, given the dating realities of most men today.
    In any case, good luck to you.

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