Soup and ready-made meals sales are soaring in Brazil. The reason is probably more singles. In the United Arab Emirates, if you are over 30 and female, there is a 60% chance you are unmarried. For Japan, 31.5% of all households are one-person.
Looking at Japan, we would see a contracting population but more households. The reason is a growing singles population that has a distinct economic impact. A person in an affluent nation who moves into a new apartment needs consumer durables (goods lasting 3 years or more) that include a refrigerator, furniture, a TV, maybe a washing machine. Single people tend to live in apartments rather than houses.
There are some universal causes of single living. People are getting married later, there is more divorce, we are living longer and marriage is no longer as attractive. In China and India, male baby selection results in too many bachelors looking for wives.
Where are we? While single person households are increasing around the world, we should be wary of generalizing. We can remember, though, that when more people live alone (please see graph below), it is a major demographic shift that affects demand for certain consumer goods and services.
This Economist article provides an excellent overview of the trend toward living alone around the world and was the source of my graph. It also led me to a Euromonitor report on Japan’s singles. For unmarried mothers specifically, this NY Times Magazine article was interesting because of its focus on 2 families and also provided a sound statistical base.
Econlife Living Solo: Part 1 is here.