This week’s Economist takes a look at an interesting demographic trend in East Asia – a fall in the rate of marriage. On the back of growing wealth and new opportunities in the workplace, many women in markets like Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and the richer parts of China are delaying marriage or opting not to marry at all.

The report includes some startling statistics. For example, the number of children per woman in East Asia has fallen from 5.3 in the 1960s to just 1.6 now.

For marketers, these changing social and cultural roles have some interesting implications, and we’ve published several pieces on Warc this year that look at them in a little more depth.

At the WFA Global Advertiser Conference in Beijing, Julia Goldin, global CMO of cosmetics brand Revlon, talked through some research the beauty brand had conducted in China into the role of women. The study found a number of tensions that were emerging between what is perceived as a woman’s traditional role and the current fashions and trends of urban China. You can read more about the study here (open access) and more about the conference here (subscribers only).

Similar themes emerged in the Dove case study from China that won Highly Commended status in the Warc Prize for Asian Strategy. It looked at the role of women in society and concluded: “The tension between career success, as exemplified by popular books with titles such as ‘Just be a rich woman: What women need is money’, and the fear of becoming a ‘Shengnu’ (‘left-over girl’) was rife in China among women and their dominating parents.”

Read the full case study here.

As so often, Japan got here first, and women there have been shunning marriage for some years. A couple of years ago there was a lot of talk of the rise of ‘grass eating men’ – androgynous, asexual and shunning the traditional ‘norms’ of red-blooded masculinity. The reasons for this trend most frequently cited are the greater assertiveness of young women and the limited economic opportunities open to young men.

These attitudes were challenged by the earthquake in March this year. One of the most interesting findings of research into post-earthquake consumer mindsets was a reappraisal of the importance of family ties and a sudden upsurge of interest in getting married, particularly among young women. (Read more about the study, by McCann Erickson, here.)

It will be interesting to revisit this research in the future to discover whether the crisis in Japan has indeed led to more marriages - and whether any brands have recognised and responded to the shift in direction.