Population shift needed to solve Aussie 'man dams'

Kathy Marks
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:34

If you are a female Australian looking for love, you could do worse than move to Nar Nar Goon, population 600, where single men outnumber women 12 to one.

The town, in Victoria, is one example of what an Australian demographer, Bernard Salt, calls a "man dam" - an oasis of males in a country where women increasingly outnumber men.

Mr Salt this week published a book, Man Drought, in which he identifies areas of Australia where men and women of different ages stand the best chance of finding a partner. His Love Map, or "Dater Base", reveals that single men are abundant in rural and remote areas, while the cities are awash with unattached women.

That situation - a result of women leaving the countryside in search of better jobs and lifestyles - was highlighted last week, when the mayor of Mount Isa urged "beauty disadvantaged" women to move to his Queensland mining town, where, he said, they would be assured of finding a man.

While Mr Salt decries those remarks as typical of the attitudes that prompt women to relocate to the cities in the first place, he applauds the basic philosophy. Faced with gender disparities on the scale of Nar Nar Goon, or Glenden in Queensland, where each single woman has 23 men competing for her affections, Australians need to move house, he believes.

That applies particularly to urban women who despair of meeting a soulmate. "There are man dams, little isolated reservoirs of men in suburbs across Australia, where, for some odd reason, there are more single men than single women, and you find a lot of them in rural communities," Mr Salt said. "If you find yourself in the wrong town, why not relocate to the right town, where you are in the market?"

While previous generations searched for a partner at the Saturday night dance, nowadays people resort to speed dating and internet dating. So why not date by geography? The book, which analyses statistics from the 2006 census, pinpoints the unattached man-woman ratio in every town, city and village in Australia, arranged alphabetically.

In Sydney, the decidedly nondescript neighbourhood of Auburn, in the sprawling western suburbs, is home to the largest population of single men. Of them, Mr Salt believes that electricians offer the best prospects. In fact, he recommends that Sydney women cruise the aisles of Auburn hardware stores if they are seriously looking for love.

According to the latest statistics, there are nearly 100,000 more women than men in Australia, which has a population of 21 million, and the proportion of single people has risen from 20 to 25 per cent in the past decade.

The situation is not as quite as dire for women as it appears. Until 34, they outnumber men, who in their 20s and early 30s suffer what Mr Salt calls a "Sheila shortage". But after 34, the pendulum swings the other way, and by the age of 40, there are nine per cent more single women than men available. By 50, the imbalance is 17 per cent; by 80, it is 66 per cent.

Historically, things were different. Thirty years ago, single women were a rarer commodity in Australia, thanks to immigration policies that favoured men.

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