Thursday, 31 July 2014

Marriages down, divorces up in 2013

6% drop in marriages; divorce numbers 2nd-highest on record
By Priscilla Goy And Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 30 Jul 2014

THE number of marriages fell last year as divorces hit the second highest annual figure on record.

Department of Statistics figures released yesterday showed 26,254 couples tied the knot, a 6 per cent drop from 2012 when marriages hit a 50-year high.

However, there were 7,525 divorces and annulments. Only in 2011 has there been a higher total - 7,604 - before 2012 saw the first drop in seven years, to 7,237.

The top reasons among non-Muslims for getting divorced were unreasonable behaviour, and having been living apart or separated for three years or more.

Among Muslims, infidelity was the biggest issue leading to a break-up, followed by financial problems and desertion.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan of the National University of Singapore believes the divorce numbers are not worrying and that the health of marriages here is "decent". She said: "The recent number of divorces has not deviated significantly from 2011." She added that the figure is still considered low compared with those in other developed countries.

However, she said it is important to keep in mind young children who are growing up with step-parents or who come from single families.

"Given that the divorce rates had been sustained, we must be culturally and socially sensitive to children so that they are not made to feel stigmatised," said Professor Straughan.

These children, if made to feel that they are not normal, are likely to run into problems "fitting into their reconstituted families" and become cut off from an important form of social support, she added.

Some 2,983 male divorcees were aged 45 and above - also the highest figure on record.

The statistics also showed that people are marrying later in life. The median age was 31.3 for grooms, and 28.8 for brides - the highest since 2003.

The number of marriages for men and women under 25 hit a new low last year. For grooms, 1,756 were below 25 when they tied the knot last year, a 22 per cent drop from 2003.

When it came to brides, 4,385 were below 25 last year, a 30 per cent fall from 2003.

Mr Brian Liu, a member of Families for Life - a council under the Ministry of Social and Family Development - said many people delay marriage because they want to put their careers first.

"Young Singaporeans do want to start families, but are currently still held back by financial and career considerations," he said.

While the number of Muslim marriages went up by 5.7 per cent last year, the overall number of marriages declined due to an 8.4 per cent drop in non-Muslim marriages.

This was the first year that the overall number of marriages fell after rises in the previous two years.

Mr Liu encouraged couples to attend marriage preparation lessons to build strong foundations for their relationships. "We (also) need to remind ourselves that marriage and career can go in tandem," he added. "Young couples can settle down early and work together to build their future."

Number of marriages falls despite incentives
This does not mean Marriage and Parenthood Package is not working: Parliamentarians
By Laura Elizabeth Philomin, TODAY, 30 Jul 2014

Despite the enhanced incentives to nudge Singaporeans towards tying the knot and having children, the number of marriages fell last year for the first time in three years.

There were 26,254 marriages — civil and Muslim — last year, down 6 per cent from 2012, despite the rise in the number of Muslim marriages.

The marriage rates for men and women fell to their lowest since 2010. For every 1,000 unmarried residents aged 15 to 49, there were 40.5 married men and 36.9 married women, down from 43.8 and 39.4, respectively.

On the other hand, more couples went their separate ways, with divorces and annulments rising 4 per cent to 7,525 last year, while the general divorce rate for married male and female residents aged 20 years and above rose. The top reasons for divorce were unreasonable behaviour in civil marriages and infidelity or extra-marital affairs for Muslim divorces.

These trends are typical of any developed country and do not indicate that the Marriage and Parenthood Package, which has been enhanced three times since it was introduced in 2001, is not working, said parliamentarians TODAY spoke to.

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol), a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said: “I don’t see the package as trying to encourage more people to get married. I think it is actually meant to get married couples settled down more quickly.”

Agreeing, fellow committee member Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) said the package cannot address the “emotional push and pull in marriage”.

Academics TODAY spoke to were also not surprised by the findings. National University of Singapore sociologist, Dr Paulin Straughan, commented on the rising divorce numbers: “We now marry for personal satisfaction, so when the relationship is no longer socially rewarding, many do not feel the need to put up the charade of a happy marital union.”

The figures released by the Department of Statistics yesterday showed that more Singaporeans are delaying marriage. Marriage rates fell among those aged below 30 years last year, compared with a decade ago, but rose for those aged 30 and above.

Dr Straughan said the trend of delayed marriages will continue as more young Singaporeans are focusing on their careers first.

But the dip could also be due to perceptions of auspicious years to marry, said Ms Anita Fam, a Families for Life council member.

“For marriages, there are some years that are more auspicious than others. If you look at the figures, they don’t deviate that much,” she said, adding that it is not uncommon to have a dip in marriage rates after a spike during more auspicious years.

Auspicious dates in 2011 and 2012 saw a surge of couples rushing to marry on 11/11/11 and 12/12/12, causing the number of marriages to jump to 27,258 and 27,936 respectively, compared with 24,363 marriages in 2010.

Meanwhile, more men with primary or lower education were marrying women with at least secondary education. Between 2003 and 2013, this proportion increased from 54 per cent to 74 per cent for grooms in civil marriages and from 49 per cent to 65 per cent for grooms in Muslim marriages.

And at one-quarter of all marriages in 2013, remarriages constituted a higher proportion of total marriages compared with a decade ago.

Proportion of inter-ethnic marriages almost doubles
One in five marriages last year between people of different races
By Laura Elizabeth Philomin, TODAY, 30 Jul 2014

The proportion of inter-ethnic marriages has almost doubled from a decade ago, to make up one in five marriages last year, latest figures released by the Singapore Department of Statistics showed.

Specifically, inter-ethnic marriages were more prevalent with Muslim marriages at 32.1 per cent compared with 18.2 per cent among civil marriages. About a quarter of the 1,630 inter-ethnic Muslim marriages last year involved spouses who fall into the “Others” ethnic group, which includes foreign nationalities and all ethnic groups excluding Chinese, Indians, Eurasians, Caucasians and Malays.

Explaining the greater proportion of Malay Muslims finding suitable spouses outside their racial group, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol, Mr Zainal Sapari, said: “The Malay Muslims used to be a very closed group. But I think with better education and better qualifications and better income, their circle of friends has become bigger.”

Of the 3,865 inter-ethnic civil marriages last year, 47.4 per cent were between Chinese grooms and brides of the “Others” ethnic group. The second most common ethnic combination was Caucasian grooms and Chinese brides at 13.1 per cent.

Ms Anita Fam, a Families for Life council member, said inter-ethic marriages — not only between major racial groups in Singapore, but also with different nationalities — is to be expected. “The world is a smaller place. And what would have been totally unusual two generations ago is far more acceptable in this day and age,” she said.

However, she added that couples in inter-ethnic marriages may need extra preparation and support to better understand each other’s cultures, as they will encounter more challenges than couples of the same race and beliefs.

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