Over the past few years, I have had countless conversations with old friends, who ask, only half in jest, “Do you know any decent men for [such and such a woman]?”
On reflection, when I go through my net of available single straight friends – and exclude the drunks, the gamblers, the eejits, the bankrupts, the libertines or the plain odd – there are very few “decent” men available.
Yet in contrast, there appear to be an extraordinary number of single women out there. This is not just a hunch: it is fact. Nor is this “Mr Smug Married” moralising about people’s lifestyles and who they live or don’t live with. This is about exploring demographic trends that should be taken into account to properly plan our society.
As the pope is coming to Ireland this month, I’ve been looking at some of the significant sociological differences between the Ireland when the last pope visited in 1979 and Ireland today. There are the obvious ones: the raft of liberal legislation, for example; but the structure of our lives, particularly our love lives, has changed quite dramatically.
When we look at the data, what we see is that the “Pope’s Children” – those born around the time of the first pope’s visit – are the most single Irish generation ever.
The 1981 census reveals that just 11.2 per cent of women between the ages of 35 and 39 were single – ie, unmarried. So about one in 10. In 2016, this figure had jumped dramatically to 35 per cent – a three-fold increase in the number of single women in their late 30s. Given that about 8 per cent of all Irish households are made up of unmarried couples who are living together, the implication is that a large number, maybe 30 per cent of all Irish women between the age of 35-39, are single.
It’s not just women who are single obviously. When the last pope came to Ireland, 18.7 per cent of all men between the age of 35 and 39 were single. Today 39.8 per cent of men between these ages are single. That’s nearly four in 10 men – more than the number of single women.
In total, 145,507 people between the ages of 35 and 39 are single. That’s around 76,000 men and 69,000 women.
Looking back to the 1979 visit of the first pope – their parents’ days – this is a huge lifestyle change. It’s also a major economic issue. Think about the housing implications for single people. With three times as many single people in their later 30s now than in 1979, we need three times more houses for these people to live in. Their parents were settled when they were their age, two adults living in one house. Now, most of these people prefer to live on their own. So we need more houses for them.
What’s more, we need more smaller houses and apartments, rather than three-bed semis in the suburbs. We need not smaller “starter” apartments but we need apartments for thirty-, forty- and fifty-somethings living on their own. And we are not building enough apartments within striking distance of the cities. Demand for smaller units by single people is driving up prices of smaller, often “artisan” cottages within striking distance of the city. And the engine of this urban gentrification is the professional single person.
And back to our opening question: if there are more single men in this age group (and 29 per cent of men in their early 40s are also single), there should be loads of men for single women in their later 30s or early 40s. So why am I asked to matchmake?
Shouldn’t these figures cancel each other out? They don’t, and the reason there is an absence of eligible men for the Pope’s Children women is that the men are more likely to skip a few years and choose younger women.
To get a sense of what is happening in Ireland and what is likely to happen in future, Sweden holds some clues. Sweden had its sexual revolution much earlier than Ireland, which means we have data on how that society evolved. Today in Sweden, households headed by either a woman exclusively or a man exclusively collapse when both sexes are in their mid-20s because couples move in together. But there, as people reach their mid-30s and early 40s, many of these couples split up.
In Sweden, households headed exclusively by single women begin to rise rapidly after women reach 35. This figure is continuing to rise as more and more Swedish women become single, because the divorce rate increases through their 40s and 50s.
Yet in Sweden the number of households headed by single men is falling not rising. The men of those divorces hook up very quickly again, and they do so not with women of their own age, who tend to remain single, but with younger women.
Dating trends in Ireland reveal signs of the Swedish cycle. A typical single man in his 40s in Ireland is dating women who are younger and in some cases much younger. More than two-thirds of men in their 40s date younger women. And the Swedish experience suggests that these men will gradually settle with women a lot younger than themselves, leaving more and more Irish women single.
This development, largely undocumented, is among the biggest societal changes since the last pope’s visit. Who would have predicted that?
I just hope somebody is taking account of it in the planning process.
Excellent trend observation. You can be sure our Government is unprepared for the Swedish cycle.
Instead of “Fas” the Government should have a match making role in our lives. They should select prospective partners to show up to “match interview”. If they don’t they should be taxed more.
The above sounds terrible. Only because unlike Mao’s China selection of partner is our human right. However tax at 50% and the rest is considered “tolerable”
Imagine – Leo wants you to marry “Mary”!!!
(To reduce single families)
The housing implications get even worse. In societies such as Sweden or in Belgium when I live, where more than 50%, of marriages end in divorce, divorce has an increasing effect on demographics and the housing market. When two people with children separate, they each tend to look for a house that can accomodate both themselves and the children when they stay over. This is probably the single most important factor explaing why the Belgian housing market is one of the most overvalued in the world. BTW, the calculation in the article is wrong. “With three times as many single… Read more »
Hi David, A very insightful and heavy weight article. You know you hit on so many areas I don’t where to start. One insight I’d like to point out re the rise in singletons and for example the 70% result in the recent abortion referendum is in my view they are co-related to the collapse in Christian values. Take the sacrament of marriage; what kept me going through the recession was the idea that the institution of marriage and family is a higher cause and ideal than the ego of the self. The same for a moral consideration that it… Read more »
That’s because it was much harder to get your hole in the 70’s if you weren’t married. It’s not that complicated. Who in their right mind would want to be married with children in their thirties?
When you say “gambler” somewhat disparagingly does that include financial traders,stock market gamblers,real estate gamblers,property developers etc..I think everyone has to gamble in some way.Women picking a husband are gambling.As a lifetime winning sports bettor and poker player I object to the use of the term gambler as an insult.I have dozens friends and aquaintances who are lifetime winning gamblers in varying sports and poker
It is more difficult for young working couples to start families than ever here. Most prefer to find secure employment and secure accommodation before they start a family. By that time one or both partners are may be in their 30s. If they succeed with this and start a family they have to juggle commutes, treks to creches and schools. Some are not so lucky and there may be difficulties in starting a family. This drives some couples apart. A financially secure man in his 30s/early 40s is in a good position to attract a 20 something woman who wants… Read more »
I just got married – I am 45 and my wife is 23 – perfect if you ask me. Some of my friends in Ireland are trying to get with women in their 30s and 40s (using the likes of Tinder etc.) – meetings some right desperate women of that age – on the shelf and dying to get a husband. Mind you some of these ‘friends’ of mine are already married. So there’s two of them in it. One of them had to report a woman to the police for harassment – she seriously needed psychiatric help – mind… Read more »
Excellent article, these are the types of insights that make DMW the highly respected man he is today. Demographics are crucial part of the picture that I don’t recall hearing discussed in donkeys, so fair play on looking at fundamentals in a new light. It’s interesting too that it was DMW who pointed out the female professional as one of the driving forces of Irish consumer growth. Their choices are another big piece of the puzzle. One minor difference in the way I see it is that many children often tend to do the opposite of what their parents did.… Read more »
Pornhub is all you need ninety per cent of the time. Who wants dirty nappies, dribblers and the rest?A high price to pay for five minutes in the sack.Who wants to finance kids for thirty years? Many employers brazenly offer unpaid jobs, http://www.iiea.com take a bow.Friends in high places.
It’s very sad. I’ve male friends 40 – 45, still single that would not consider women over 35 and female friends over 40 looking for Mr Right, that’s just not interested in their profile.
Some in particular would be amazing mam’s. I guess it’s one of those things that maybe future mothers may promote a more balanced life for their daughters, valuing both work and family rather than prioritizing career above all else. I don’t know if that would help or what the answer is, maybe it’s the new norm and everyone will be the happier for it?
David’s article is sobering but some of the replies here are stern reading for women. My generation of women who left school in the late 80s/early 90s were led to believe that we should go to college, work your way up in a career, get the car, the house and most important of all, the independence. I’m not saying it isn’t good to be independent. It is essential for every woman to be independent and have some money of her own. In college and when we started working we went dutch on dates – we would have it no other… Read more »
This must be a cod: the drunks, the gamblers, the eejits, the bankrupts, the libertines or the plain odd – well that describes me and my family pretty well and we all seem to be propagating like rats. When you track down this paragon of virtue he should be exhibited as the wonder of the age: the last known example was Mr George Bernard Shaw who was entirely perfect – or as he was always telling us. Humanity I am afraid is not perfect: and is the imperfections that make us interesting: Dylan Thomas’s Mrs Cherry Owen’s “got two husbands… Read more »
We engineers weep with laughter at the decadence:
You depend on us for everything you do, even the medium we are now using, the sciences created: you cannot switch on a light, turn on a tap or go to the lavatory without our leave.
What you pathetically regard as civilisation depends on Gong Farmers and you don’t even realise it.
But we engineers will carry on changing the world – whilst you just talk.
Has Mr Drumm conquered Ireland? I think not
Who would have seen this coming? Well, everyone. What did David think would happen? Marriage is not supported in any way but the exact opposite is the case. As a work colleague maintains, there are three things you should never do in Ireland because of all the disadvantages: go to work, buy a house or marry. The only time any interest was taken in marriage here was as an excuse to push the progressive agenda over homosexual marriage. Suddenly, for once (and once only), everyone was in favour of this outdated, repressive, patriarchal and bourgeois institution. There is no advantage… Read more »
Here is discussion, amusing in parts, about the ‘housing crisis’ on Politics.ie:
The fact that men marry more than women has always been true. In Victorian days, with the relatively high female mortality rates in child birth, men would marry again. With the advent of widespread divorce, men who marry once are far more likely to marry again, than women. I piece I saw a few years ago (may have been 20, hard to remember) describing some research on ‘expectations’. It seems that young women have totally unrealistic expectations of their future husbands. The expectation required an income of well over twice there average wage. Men have far lower expectations, and are… Read more »
I’d like to comment on the rise of simpletons that has transformed the ever-dwindling Irish Army into a non-event, using the example of Mr Edward Horgan, its former Commander, and a man who once signed up to a public event in Dublin with a Muslim terrorist (who was consequently refused entry to Ireland on security grounds). Mr Horgan is a former member of the – why it doesn’t surprise me – Green Party: a party who gave us NAMA and carbon tax and who considers all energy sources unecological, except for the Russian gas and wind farms based on German… Read more »
Women in our society marry men too close to them in age. It’s asking for trouble. By the time they hit a certain age, the women are usually attractive – if at all – only to older men, while the men (particularly if they have wealth and status) are often still attractive to much younger women. There’s a crude biological reason for this, as men’s procreative abilities last much longer than do women’s. If I had a daughter I would advise her by all means to socialise with guys her own age, but if she was looking for a long-term… Read more »
Has anybody ever heard of the Hajnal line? It divides Europe into two areas of nuptiality. Over the centuries the age of marriage has changed and has been affected by factors such as wealth, war, famine and religion. For more information see the Wiki link:
We can lose sight of the real problem. A debt based money system creates slaves of mankind one nation after another as they fall to the austerity program of the IMF. It used to be that a man could marry after inheriting the family patch. The rest of the family can emigrate. Today many singles still live at home well into their thirties. Debt is insidious and it is planned assiduously and the plan is executed to perfection. The Moneychanger M A R K E T C O M M E N T A R Y Thursday, 16 August a.d.… Read more »
I’ll run this one up a flagpole and see who salutes it:
From David’s favourite other lefty journalist – the venerable George Monbiot.
@David McWilliams McWilliams. As I write Venezuela’s hyperinflation has reduced the country’s currency to zero value. It’s the socialist policies that have done this no question despite the president saying it’s an “imperialist plot”. Now David look at the Venezuelan stock market; It’s gone through the roof indicating a booming economy what an absurdity! https://tradingeconomics.com/venezuela/stock-market Surely to Jesus Christ himself it must be obvious to you that the same parallel is apparent in the stock markets of the western world that runaway inflation is taking hold as they make new highs the S&P 500 almost doubling since 2014 for example?… Read more »
Here is a post from Kunstler’s blog by ‘KesaAnna’, who is (I think) a German woman of mature years living in America. The last sentence is particular apposite for this topic. ‘There’s nothing left of an American common culture” ‘There never was one. That is a Yankee wet dream. ‘As ludicrous as that temple you built to Abraham Lincoln. ‘you might as well have built a temple to Ivan the Terrible , ( Russian hero ) or Vlad the impaler , ( Rumanian hero ) or Elizabeth Bathory ( Hungarian quasi-proto-feminist hero ) ‘the indians , the Mexicans , the… Read more »
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Perhaps the Brits should change the “Dutch courage” expression into “Dutch literacy”, and the French their “l’état c’est moi” into “analphabétisme c’est nous”?
David – thanks for a well-written and thought-provoking article.
For some below who may wonder why single/divorced men in their 40s date (& mate) with much younger women… I suspect it is related to 10,000+ years of evolutionary programming: men unconsciously seek out highly fertile women, women seek out suitable providers / protectors for their offspring. To illustrate this further, look at the queues outside any disco and you will see most of the women uniformly scantily clad while the males are all shirts and trousers. Again, it’s all primal evolutionary forces at work.
Spot on assessment, and frankly quite scary. Didn’t appreciate you kicking it off with a dose of misandry, though. It’s easy to shit on and blame men, especially if you’re one yourself and securely married. I hope for your sake you don’t ever have to re-enter the market and have to put up with these damned women. It’s easy being their friends and acquaintances. It’s safe. They hide their crazy and dysfunction really well.