Middle-aged women happy to go it alone
The ratios around the country differ but older single women tend to outnumber the blokes
Business owner Hayley Morris is 48, single, independent and happy.
The mother of three lives in the inner-west Melbourne suburb of Yarraville, and has a hectic schedule managing her travel company and caring for her children.
And, according to the census, she is one of a growing number of women aged between 45 and 54 who are single, yet there are significantly fewer single men in the same age bracket.
An analysis of last year’s census by The Demographics Group found there were 424,000 single women in Australia and 346,000 single men aged between 45-54, creating a ratio of 82 single men to every 100 single women.
Ms Morris was initially surprised, but says the data reflects her experience. She has found women feel less pressure to find another partner after a relation- ship ends and are happy being single. “For me personally, (that trend is) about not settling for something you are not happy with,” she said. “While it’s nice to have someone, women now are more independent, we don’t need to have a man to fulfil us.
“We have good jobs, good friends, we can travel and pursue our own dreams without needing a man to provide those things.”
Bernard Salt, managing director of the demographics advisory group, said research also showed middle-aged single men appeared to cluster in certain areas. In Darwin, a city dominated by traditionally male jobs in the military and energy, the ratio was 100 single women for 100 single men.
“In Melbourne it’s a different story, with 84,000 single women and 64,000 single men in this market producing a ratio of 76 middle-age single men per 100 middle-aged single women,” he said. “Melbourne offers access to corporate head offices as well as to education and health services which tend to favour women.”
Melbourne has the lowest number of single women per 100 single males; Sydney comes in at 78, Brisbane at 79, Perth at 82 and Adelaide at 86.
Ms Morris, the founder of Sisterhood Women’s Travel which runs female-only tours, said every older single woman had their own story, and it was not always centred around finding a partner.
“My life is so full of work ... and I’m very close to my family, so a guy would be a bonus but it’s not the be all and end all,” she said.
We scanned the continent to find the cities and postcodes where the odds of finding love later in life are best
Men and women of Australia, I have an important announcement. Sufficient data has been released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to construct a statistical model — stay with me here — that determines the ratio between the number of single and married or de facto adults across the life cycle. No matter your age, what are your chances of finding love — or lust — with a similarly aged single person of the opposite sex?
In September I looked at bachelor hot spots for the young and beautiful in the 25 to 34 age cohort: single women, please make your way to Melbourne’s Fawkner or Lucindale in South Australia, which are among this nation’s hottest bachelor hot spots. Or so it would seem from census results.
In the 25 to 34 age group the odds governing partner selection are very much in women’s favour: just 554,000 single women against 646,000 single men. It is this blunt ratio that determines each gender’s chances for love. More single men than single women allows reproductive women the exquisite luxury of choice. Evolutionist Charles Darwin would call these odds natural selection that leads to an overall improvement in the survival of the human race. Theoretically, dud dudes don’t get to pass on their genes.
This is all well and good for the reproductive stage in the life cycle, but what happens later in life? Women have the upper hand in the partnering stakes in youth but later in life the underlying demographics favour men. Mother Nature must have a sense of humour or a sense of fair play.
In the 45 to 54 age group there are 424,000 single women and 346,000 single men. Middle-aged single men can pick and choose partners from their own age cohort or compete for an even younger candidate for their affection. By 55 to 64, the odds deterio- rate further for single women: 406,000 single women versus 298,000 single men.
Don’t blame me for these figures; I’m just the messenger. But I am here to help.
There may be an undersupply of single men relative to single women from the late 30s onwards, but this is a problem only if you don’t know where to look. Middleaged single men cluster; they hang out in the same places. All older single women need do is find the cluster, and the odds of finding a romantic relationship are improved. Who needs Tinder when you have access to the census?
The Demographics Group’s director of research, Simon Kuestenmacher, has scanned the continent to find the cities and postcodes where the odds of finding love later in life are best.
Nationally, there are 82 single men aged 45 to 54 per 100 single women, but in Darwin the ratio is 100:100. The middle-aged partnering market must be sizzling in the Top End with 2583 single women and 2584 single men aged 45 to 54. But it’s a different story at the other end of the continent in cold and lonely Melbourne, with 84,000 single women and 64,000 single men producing a ratio of 76 middle-age single men per 100 middle-aged single women.
Darwin is dominated by the military and the energy industry, both of which tend to favour men, whereas Melbourne offers access to corporate head offices as well as to education and health services, which tend to favour women.
Of course this summation of the older singles market simply presents the raw numbers in each city. The numbers include singles who are gay as well as others who may be perfectly happy with their relationship status.
However, it is assumed the proportion of singles not inclined to partner up with a member of the opposite sex is broadly the same for each gender, which means the logic of the singles ratio is still mightily relevant to the issue of partner selection.
We have mapped the distribution of older singles across each capital city and it shows an overall wash of more single women than single men in the 45 to 54 market, which is to be expected given the national figures. There is a powerful and, I suspect, painful story to be told about the breakdown of relationships later in life that is evidenced in the census results. There’s a lot of singles later in life and each of them has a story to tell.
Even so there are some — admittedly modest — clusters of middle-aged single men in each capital city. (Maybe there’s no need to move to Darwin?) These clusters include the Perth CBD, where there are 77 single men aged 45 to 54 and just 37 single women.
In Melbourne the older singles hot spot is Bunyip near Pakenham, where there are 24 single women and 40 single men. Bunyip’s older single women can’t complain. There’s plenty of older single male product on offer. In Sydney the hot spot is, perhaps not surprisingly, Darlinghurst, where there are 970 single men and just 484 single women. In Brisbane single older blokes bunker down in Fortitude Valley, where they outnumber single women by a ratio of 337 to 228.
In other parts of our major cities there is noticeable absence of older single men. In the public housing estates of Sydney’s Campbelltown, for example, there are 75 single women aged 45 to 54 and just 24 single men. In Melbourne it’s a different story: in the genteel suburb of Balwyn there are 125 middle-aged single women and just 49 men in the same situation. In Brisbane there are 370 single women aged 45 to 54 in Calamvale and just 181 single men.
In some ways the narrative of a single existence later in life is to be expected. Single men in their late 40s and early 50s huddle together in the gay suburbs of Sydney (Darlinghurst) and Melbourne (Abbotsford) or give themselves over to work by clustering in or near the CBD in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane.
Older single men also cluster in mining communities and in frontier towns such as Karratha and Darwin and in rural communities that women are disinclined to move to or to live in, such as Naracoorte, Jindabyne and Tumbarumba. I suspect this isn’t so much a female rejection of the men in these areas as it is a commercial decision based on a perceived absence of work options for women.
Perhaps the most curious outcome of this trawl through the ways in which older singles organise their lives is the clustering of older single women in large country towns surrounded by an ocean of older single men. When a relationship breaks down in the city the female usually remains with the house and the kids, as in Campbelltown, Balwyn and Calamvale. The men in this situation gravitate to a rented apartment in the CBD or inner city. In the country it’s a different story. Woman leave the farm and move into town, creating an island of older singles perhaps working in health, education or business services.
Rural Australia is awash with towns functioning as singles islands, including Horsham (population 16,000), Rockhampton including Yeppoon (18,000) and Mount Gambier (29,000). All three towns are sufficiently large to support a diverse employment base and allow separated hus- bands and exes reasonable access to children. Horsham has 271 single women aged 45 to 54 and 207 single men. In the surrounding communities of Murtoa, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera, there are 30 per cent more older single men than single women.
Australia’s admittedly shallow reserves of middle-aged single men are thinly scattered across the farmlands or clustering here and there for military or mining purposes. Rural communities must be marked if not skewed by the significant and growing social issue of the breakdown of familial relationships. Only in the city is the story different and where men must seek out alternative digs.
I suspect there is much unhappiness and angst at different times in the life cycle when Australians realise their relationship isn’t working. Based on census figures, I suspect this is from the mid-30s onwards, leading to angst across the spectrum of middle age. Perhaps I need to review married couples through the life cycle to restore your faith that some Australians really do manage to raise a family and stay together through good times and bad.
Hayley Morris yesterday