Disaster makes the heart grow fonder, but potential marriage partners still need cash

May 20th, 2011 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

Smile, you're married!

Since the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, there have been many heartwrenching stories in the news about people wanting to make more meaningful human connections, spurred by the realization that life is short. An article in the Asahi Shimbun reports that the clearest evidence of this change in societal attitude is a sharp rise in wedding-related goods and services. In the months of March and April, sales of engagement rings were 40 percent higher than they were for the same period last year; with sales of wedding rings 25 percent higher.

The marriage consulting and introduction service O-Net told the newspaper that “inquiries” into the company’s services rose 12 percent in April and 24 percent just from women in the Kanto region. There was also a 20 percent increase over last year in the number of people registered with the company who successfully tied the knot in March, and an 18 percent increase in April. A single woman in her 30s who newly registered with O-Net told the Asahi that she realized she wanted a life partner after she spent six hours walking home to an empty apartment on the night of March 11.

There’s nothing surprising about this development. The disaster has had a profound effect on how people view the future, but there are still economic factors that have to be taken into consideration, even when it comes to matters of the heart. As it happens, on May 11, exactly two months after the earthquake, the Cabinet Office released the results of a survey on marriage and income which showed that only 9 percent of men in their 20s and 30s who make less than ¥3 million a year are married, while the percentage goes up to 26 percent for men in that age group who make between ¥3 and ¥4 million. The portion is even greater for men in their 30s (30 percent) or 20s (40 percent!) who make at least ¥6 million a year.

Some analysis of these results say it means men are ready to marry once their income reaches a certain level, but couldn’t it also mean they aren’t considered marriageable by the opposite sex until their income is at least ¥3 million? In most surveys of women who are looking to marry, ¥3 million is considered the minimum desired for a potential partner, a dividing line these survey results seem to bear out. For women, the percentages are reversed: 36 percent of females in their 30s who make less than ¥3 million are married, while only 16 percent of those in the same age group making more than ¥6 million are.

In any case, men with higher incomes are more likely to find partners, while fewer women with higher incomes get married. It will be interesting to see if this new desire for ties that bind transcends the more conventional need for money.

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