News & events


Differential marriage patterns across Asia, recent changes, and some implications for policy

07 March 2013
10:15 - 12:00

Date : 07 March 2013

Time : 10:15 – 12:00

Presenters :  Professor Gavin Jones


Asia is home to 60% of the world’s population, and has always shown great complexity in marriage patterns, related to different kinship systems and family structures. Over recent decades, traditional marriage patterns have been subjected to pressures for change resulting from economic and social development, which has been extremely rapid in East and much of Southeast Asia, and less rapid in South Asia. In East and Southeast Asia, this has been accompanied by the near-abandonment of traditional arranged marriage systems.

A key trend we are observing is toward much later and less marriage in most East Asian countries and many Southeast Asian countries; in South Asia as well, there is a limited trend in this direction, but with a great deal of child marriage remaining. Throughout Asia, cohabitation is not socially acceptable, and remains fairly rare, though almost certainly increasing; what is not increasing, however, is childbearing in cohabiting unions. Divorce is increasing throughout much of the region. Where it remains rare (the Philippines, most of South Asia), this should not be taken to indicate high levels of marital harmony, but rather legal or cultural factors inhibiting divorce as a solution to dysfunctional marriages. There are other aspects to discuss, which may be more relevant to South Africa: for example, the extent of polygamy and the proportion of children raised in father-absent households.  

The presentation will document the trends, raise some policy issues and attempt to engage, from an Asian perspective, with some of the family issues faced in South Africa.       

Prof. Gavin Jones is the director of the JY Pillay Comparative Asia Research Centre at the National University of Singapore. The centre pursues comparative research into key development issues in Asia, focusing particularly on the three ’giants’ of Asia, namely China, India and Indonesia. Prof. Jones has followed an academic career closely linked with consultancy assignments in the areas of population and development, socioeconomic and cultural determinants and implications of nuptiality, and on the formulation of population and social policies. Prior to his current position he was research team leader at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, and formerly headed the Division of Demography and Sociology, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Among his key roles at the Asia Research Institute was leading the Changing Family in Asia cluster which explores the dimensions of family change in the Asia, their causes and implications.

Kindly RSVP by 1 March 2013

This seminar may be attended via video conference in Pretoria, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal. Details as below.  

Cape Town : HSRC, 12th Floor, Plein Park Building (Opposite Revenue Office), Plein Street, Cape Town. Contact Jean Witten, Tel (021) 4668004, Fax (021) 461 0299, or

Durban :  First floor HSRC board room, 750 Francois Road, Ntuthuko Junction, Pods 5 and 6, Cato Manor, Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or

Pretoria : HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail: