Money can’t buy you love, but it is a must for those desiring marriage
For a 37-year-old prospective groom surnamed Kwon, his girlfriend’s parents disapproved of the marriage. Kwon got a job later than his peers and had not saved very much money. He lived alone in a house outside the city and hoped to start with his bride there, but her parents wanted him to have an apartment at the very least.
Kwon didn’t even bother asking for her hand in marriage.
“As the time spent on repaying school loans as well as employment becomes longer than expected, many do not have much money although they are at a marriageable age,” said Yoo Ji-hoon, the head of a center that provides residence for the young at 2030hada, a youth organization.
“Without the help of parents, couples in fact have no choice but to give up on the idea of getting married,” explained Yoo.
The fundamental cause of the low birthrate in Korea is that less people decide to get hitched. Many cite rising individualism and lack of responsibility as the reasons for the young not considering marriage as a must, but the core reason is ultimately money. This is the conclusion of a recent study by the JoongAng Ilbo using youth-related statistics announced by Statistics Korea and other organizations.
First and foremost, expectations are far too high. Both female and male millennials want their future spouse to have much more money than they actually have.
According to a report released in May by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, 74.2 percent of those surveyed from 19 to 39 years in age said that their ideal husband should earn more than 3 million won ($2,544) a month. Those who wanted their husband to earn from 3 million won to 4 million won accounted for 44.3 percent, and over 4 million won was 29.9 percent.
Of men aged 15 to 39, only 37.1 percent meet these levels, according to a survey by the National Youth Policy Institute. This means that out of 10 men, six of them fall short of women’s expectations.
More than half of unmarried men, 63.3 percent, said their future wife should earn more than 2 million won a month. Although male respondents had lower expectations than female respondents, the women who come up to the standard were only 47.2 percent of the total.
Male and female singles both preferred apartments as their first home after marriage.
According to a survey conducted by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, a total of 77.6 percent of men and 80.8 percent of women responded accordingly. However, only 29.1 percent unmarried men from 19 to 39 years old lived in an apartment alone in 2018, according to the survey of the National Youth Policy Institute. The rate of women living in an apartment was 23.0 percent.
The rest of the young resided in multiunit houses, studio apartments and officetels, a dual-purpose building used for both commercial and residential purposes.
Among the factors that made the young adults hesitant about getting married, cost in preparation for marriage was the No. 1 reason, according to a survey conducted by the National Youth Policy Institute. A total of three out of 10 men from 15 to 39 years old dithered when preparing for marriage, and 71.7 percent of those said that the reason was the high preparation costs for marriage.
Women were also worried about money, with 61.3 percent saying so. Only 6.5 percent of men and 11.1 percent of women said that they were reluctant to tie the knot because they do not want to throw away the free life as a single.
It seems as though the fall in the marriage rates has little to do with changing values and attitudes and more to do with the lack of income, cash or assets.
Experts say that bachelors and bachelorettes should lower their standards, at least in terms of how much their future spouse should earn, but they emphasized that it is hard to change the notion as it has been imprinted over the years by society and culture.
The government can play a role in at least two ways. It can help boost employment so people have higher incomes and more savings, and it can implement policies to reduce the costs of the necessities of married life, including homeownership, childbirth and education.
“Since it is difficult to solve the youth unemployment by only increasing jobs in the public sector, [the government] should encourage companies to invest and create high-quality jobs so that the rate of marriage could be increased,” said Kim Jung-sik, professor of International Money and Finance at Yonsei University of Underwood International College.
Improvement of infrastructure could help considerably.
“As buying a house in Seoul is too expensive and this is the most burdensome cost for couples, the [government] must expand traffic network and create an environment where couples can commute from the suburbs of Seoul, where houses are much cheaper,” emphasized Kim.
BY KIM DO-NYUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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