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Japanese women, who typically work 40 hours a week in the office, then do, on average, another 30 hours of housework. And Asian women who give up work to look after children find it hard to return when the offspring are grown.

TWENTY years ago a debate erupted about whether there were specific “Asian values”.

Most attention focused on dubious claims by autocrats that democracy was not among them.

In contrast, half of marriages in some Western countries end in divorce, and half of all children are born outside wedlock.

The recent riots across Britain, whose origins many believe lie in an absence of either parental guidance or filial respect, seem to underline a profound difference between East and West.

Yet marriage is changing fast in East, South-East and South Asia, even though each region has different traditions.

Asian dating lonely

The changes are different from those that took place in the West in the second half of the 20th century.More women are financially independent, so more of them can pursue a single life that may appeal more than the drudgery of a traditional marriage.More education has also contributed to the decline of marriage, because Asian women with the most education have always been the most reluctant to wed—and there are now many more highly educated women.On the face of it his claim appears persuasive still.In most of Asia, marriage is widespread and illegitimacy almost unknown.Women there are the primary caregivers for husbands, children and, often, for ageing parents; and even when in full-time employment, they are expected to continue to play this role.This is true elsewhere in the world, but the burden that Asian women carry is particularly heavy.People there now marry even later than they do in the West. Almost a third of Japanese women in their early 30s are unmarried; probably half of those will always be.The mean age of marriage in the richest places—Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong—has risen sharply in the past few decades, to reach 29-30 for women and 31-33 for men. Over one-fifth of Taiwanese women in their late 30s are single; most will never marry.Marriage rates are falling partly because people are postponing getting hitched.Marriage ages have risen all over the world, but the increase is particularly marked in Asia.

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