What, if anything, can be done about an entirely new social problem discussed in our story today: A shortage of men that well-educated women want to marry? It is easy to make fun of it, as in TV3's The Bachelor, where 21 women compete for the one eminently marriageable man. But it is no joke, probably, for the young professional women using dating agencies these days.

They are asking the agencies to find them men of similar education and there are too few. Among people in the 30-34 age bracket with a university degree or similar qualification, there are 155 women for every 100 men. That would be less of a problem if the women were more willing to "marry down". The overall ratio is 91 men to 100 women in the population aged 25-49.

But women are perhaps less inclined than men to marry someone not as well educated, which may add to the shortage of partners for intelligent women. Overall, though, far more couples are educational equals now that career horizons have been widened for two generations of women.

That is creating another problem for social equality. Researchers are seeing a widening gap between households with two tertiary-educated income earners and the rest.


The solution is not, as one dating agency suggests, for women to lower their expectations. They should, of course, keep an open mind when they meet someone but it would be idle to pretend that these things are of no account. The solution, as the researchers suggest, is to raise the numbers of men in higher education.

The gender imbalance among 30-somethings with degrees is exactly the same problem that began to be noticed in secondary schools 15-20 years ago. A number of teachers noticed boys were being overshadowed by girls in class work and results. The problem was denied by educational research at that time, perhaps because the observers put it down to new modes of teaching and group-learning that suited girls more than teenage boys.

Nothing has been done about it and it should be no surprise that women now comprise 60 per cent of tertiary graduates. Women have taken their rightful place in many professions, if not yet reaching the top in fair numbers. They are no longer denied the opportunity to reach their educational potential and society is better for their participation.

The failure of men to foot it with them educationally in equal numbers is no reason to change the education system or promote men undeservedly. The shortage of partners for highly educated women is a problem only men can solve. Get your credentials, boys.

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