The man drought has deepened in New Zealand and new research suggests single women are making it hard to find Mr Right by setting their sights too high.
More than a quarter of women aged 30-44 are living without partners and Victoria University researcher Dr Paul Callister says "educated men have never had it so good".
Statistics New Zealand 2011 population estimates reveal there are more than 50,000 "excess" 25 to 49-year-old females living in New Zealand and research by Callister for an updated Missing Men study suggests the gap is most likely caused by women coming to New Zealand as temporary residents and choosing to stay on.
Females dominated the group of 40,000 people, aged 20-49, who decided to stay in New Zealand between 1986 and 2006.
But it was a trend towards women becoming better educated than men that was having the biggest effect on their ability to form long-term partnerships, with Callister suggesting well-educated single women were looking for well-educated single men and not finding them.
"What we can tell is traditionally women have tended to marry up, to have partners who are better educated. You can see why it might be when you think about having children and having a good earning partner."
But with women making up 63% of those holding degrees or higher tertiary qualifications, marrying up is becoming impossible for some.
"Now, well-educated women are more likely to partner with someone with a lower level of formal qualifications than in the past. There has been a big increase in partnering down for well-educated women," said Callister.
Only 3% of educated women were partnered with men with no formal education. "Young educated men have never had it so good, but uneducated men have never had it so bad."
Kiwi dating site FindSomeone confirmed women 26 years and over wanted someone with a tertiary education, while men were satisfied with dating a woman with a high school education.
Up to half of women between 26 and 44 specified their ideal man must have a tertiary qualification. A Sunday Star-Times poll of readers found almost half of women surveyed thought there was a man drought, rising to 59% of those looking for a long-term partner.
Almost half of people surveyed thought it was harder to find a partner than 20 years ago.
Elizabeth Stiles from Daw (Division for the Advancement of Women) said: "I don't want what hangs around in pubs and clubs and that leaves precious little.
"Yes, I'm fussy but I deserve the best and anything else I'm better off without ... a special companion would be nice but there's a point I won't pass to settle for anything less. I'm fussy, not frustrated [but] particular and not peculiar."
WOMEN WANT AMBITION, DRIVE . . . AND GOOD SHOES
If they are rude to the taxi driver or to the waitress, it's all over.
The term "man drought" paints an image of desperate single women searching for an impossible Mr Right, but meeting four single Kiwi women revealed a different picture.
Gathered at Auckland's Pullman Hotel (yes, we get the pun) on Friday night were an actress, graphic colour consultant, fashion assistant and journalism student. All were educated, single, heterosexual women.
One was a skilled American migrant, the other three born in New Zealand. One, actively looking for a partner, the other three happily single.
So what are they looking for?
World experience, ambition, drive – and good shoes.
And all four imagined themselves with a foreign-born man or at least a Kiwi with a wide world view and the ambition to travel.
"I know how much travel I have done and am keen to do and I would be worried about meeting a Kiwi guy who wasn't keen to do that," said Aidee Walker, 30.
Although they were concerned about coming across as superficial, all four confessed to sizing up a man with the "dip" – a quick look down at his shoes.
The quality of shoe can tell a lot. White sneakers and jeans will put a man out of the running unless he is exceptionally comfortable in his own skin.
Although researchers say the modern woman wants a man with a good education, it seems motivation and passion for a career were more valued by our quartet.
"I care if I can hold a conversation. They need to be able to talk to me on my level and whether that is from a formal education or from a world view and life education, doesn't matter to me," said Jess Mills, 32.
"I know a lot of highly intelligent people who haven't studied and a lot of people who have studied who I can barely believe it ... I like someone who is supportive of creative pursuits and has a creative mind," said Indigo McLaughlin, 23.
Mills admitted a relationship ended with a less educated man because they ran out of things to talk about and Karina Abadia, 33, said although intelligence was more important than education, the two did often go together. "My last boyfriend was a struggling writer and director, and I thought that was cool because he was doing what he loved," Abadia said.
An adaptable partner who supported their passions and goals was essential. "If I look at the couples I admire, it's the more creative couples, who share the roles and are more flexible about things," said Mills.
All felt confident they could support themselves, and didn't need a man to look after them. Although numbers show a man drought is evident in New Zealand, these women did not feel it. They did however believe that the dating culture in New Zealand was dire.
Mills, the American in the group filled us in on the difference.
"It's a way of getting to know someone, over a week or two weeks, or a month before you officially partner with someone. It's lunches, dinners, coffees."
McLaughlin made men take her on dates if they were interested. "It's a way to test their manners and their social skills, and see how they work in the world, not just in bed."
Mills was keen to meet men and was an active internet dater while the others said they just met men through friends of friends.
"I do meet a lot of people who are artistic, creative and interested in their jobs who have travelled a lot, but they are usually either in a committed relationship or interested in casual [relationships]," said Abadia.
None of the four women were interested in one night stands, and did not like going to "meat market" bars.
Finally, a few more tips for you blokes. A perfect man will be confident without arrogance, sensitive to others, able to cook and will possess good manners.
"If they are rude to the taxi driver or to the waitress, it's all over," said McLaughlin.
"Treating other people like crap but me nicely doesn't make sense," added Walker.
- Sunday Star Times
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