10 January 2017
Singles are not alone
How the “single society” is changing the economy
The number of one-person households is expected to grow in all OECD countries. Single people will be the majority of the population by 2030 and this powerful force will shift the parameters of the economic system.
According to this, the (anti)Valentine’s Day has been celebrated all over the world on the 11th of November by all people who are proud of being single. It gets the name “Single’s day” because the date consists of four "one"s and it comes from a Chinese holiday (Guanggun Jie) that is very popular among high graduates and young men.
In 2009 Alibaba founder Jack Ma started to use Single’s Day to promote sales on his local e-commerce platform as a consolation antidote for singles to Valentine’s Day. Now it is the world’s biggest online shopping festival and last year 14.3 billion dollars of goods were sold in 24 hours. You can bet that new spending records will be set soon because families are changing and they are getting smaller.
In Europe, the average wedding rate has reduced by half. It fell from eight marriages per 1.000 inhabitants per year in 1970 to 4 marriages today, meanwhile the average divorce rate has doubled to 2,6 per year and the number of children born outside marriage has tripled. Today almost 15% of children live with one parent.
According to OECD, “the future of families in 2030” will be mostly a “single affair”. Lifestyle is changing: jobs are increasingly unstable and precarious, fertility rate tends to decrease and the years spent studying postpone the entrance in the adult life. And then, pursuing a professional career turns singlehood into a stable status. As a consequence of ageing population, the number of one-person households is expected to grow: the highest scenarios are projected in France with 75% of singles by 2030 and in UK with 60% of singles out of the total population. Nowadays, 45% of all US residents are unmarried, some of them are couple living on their own, but 27% of them are true singles; in Italy there are nine million single persons. Education, values, work are changing and we’re entering in a new social era. During the seventies being single was an uncommon social status while todays it’s an economic issue. A new report by the economist Edward Yardeni considered singletons as a disruptive social innovation, even more than the digital revolution. First consequences concern housing, accommodations and the size of house stock. Also food consumption is changing; singles often eat in bars and restaurants rather than at home. A “single society” certainly has potential benefits but also high risks. Singles are more flexible than married people: they frequently change job, residence address and even country, so they have fewer fixed expenses. And generally they are keener to invest in new entrepreneurship. At the same time there is a very risky scenario behind the door. One-person households are more sensitive to job loss, injuries or illness. In the case of single parents it’s hard to afford the cost of everyday life. But singles are not necessarily alone and many of them are thinking about their future. Due to the change of social structure and market conditions, a new class of responsible singles is emerging. Whether they will find their soulmate or not, many singletons invest in health insurance and private pensions to avoid all the risks of being alone.