Rise in Number of 'May-December Marriages' a Sign of Gender Equality

Rise in Number of 'May-December Marriages' a Sign of Gender Equality
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

What you need to know

Nearly one in five new brides in Taiwan is older than her husband. Many see this new phenomenon as the result of a more open-minded society and the impact of feminism.

An increase in the number of women in Taiwan who are older than their husbands reflects improved gender equality, an academic says.

The percentage of marriages in Taiwan in which the woman is older than the man rose to 18.2 percent last year, up from 14.6 percent in 1997, according to the latest Ministry of Interior (MOI) statistics. The average age women married at hit 30 in 2015, also a fresh record.

National Taiwan University sociology professor Sun Jhong-sing (孫中興) says the increase in what are known as "May-December relationships" reflects improved gender equality in Taiwanese society.

Women who are economically independent often look for equality in relationships, which may be unacceptable for older men with conservative values, Sun says. He adds that if couples reach a consensus to treat each other fairly, age does not need to be an issue.

MOI officials say that the statistics reflect a more open-minded society and the impact of feminism. In the past, men had greater power in a relationship but this is no longer always the case.

A comment thread on the Facebook page of the Chinese-language Apple Daily has drawn hundreds of comments on the issue.

One woman whose husband is six years younger says age difference in a marriage not important.

“I used to date a guy two years older than me,” she says. She describes the man as “a playboy” who wanted her to take on more family responsibilities.

“Older men aren’t necessarily better,” she says.

Another woman says while mother wanted her to find an older husband, she believes “one’s attitude and behavior is much more important than his age.”

Several male netizens suggest they prefer older, more mature spouses. “Many young girls are ‘drama queens,’” one writes, adding that older women “take care of guys and are less emotional.”

In Hong Kong, the number of older women marrying younger men was about one in every five last year, up from 12 percent in 1981, and higher than in Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, where "May-December relationships" have always been popular.

Ou Huei-fang (歐惠芳) has worked as a marriage counselor in Hong Kong for more than two decades. Ou says the higher ratio is a consequence a lower male population. One population report last year showed there were 570,000 more women than men in Hong Kong.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole