Monday, 10 July 2017

Marriage and Parenthood survey 2016: Love and the single Singaporean

Most singles intend to marry, but six in 10 not dating seriously
By Janice Tai, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 9 Jul 2017

Most of Singapore's singletons intend to marry, though six in 10 are not dating with marriage in mind and four in 10 have never had serious relationships, according to a new government survey.

Among those not dating seriously, 42 per cent are leaving dating to chance. As for those seeking potential partners, more are comfortable with online dating and dating apps, and more of them have met their partners this way.

These were some key findings released by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) yesterday from its Marriage and Parenthood Survey.

Commissioned to understand public attitudes and perceptions towards marriage and parenthood, the survey polled 2,940 singles and 2,861 married Singapore residents - both groups aged 21 to 45 years old - last year. Similar surveys were conducted in 2004, 2007 and 2012.

The survey also showed that 83 per cent of the singles aged 21 to 35 years old indicated that they intend to marry, a slight dip from the 86 per cent in 2012.

But 59 per cent of all the singles surveyed were not dating seriously with a view to getting married and 41 per cent had never dated seriously before. Among the singles not dating seriously, four out of 10 prefer to leave dating to chance.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo, who oversees population matters, wrote on Facebook yesterday that she is happy that marriage and parenthood remain important life goals that many Singaporeans aspire to.

"The aspirations captured in the survey give us hope. It also points to what more we can do as a community to help our fellow Singaporeans achieve those aspirations," wrote Mrs Teo.

"Some areas the Government is looking into include developing the dating landscape, creating family-friendly and inclusive workplaces and improving pre-school support," she added.

The findings on married respondents showed that, similar to previous years, most couples prefer to have two or more children.

When it comes to looking after infants and children up to six years old, both men and women prefer full-time work with flexible work arrangements, over full-time work without such arrangements and part-time work.

More husbands are now sharing the load of childcare responsibilities with their wives, though women still bear the brunt of childcare. Dr Mathew Mathews, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies and research consultant for the 2016 survey, said that singles need to be more proactive instead of leaving dating to chance if they aspire to get married.

Statistics show that more Singapore residents in their mid- to late-20s are staying single. They make up 70 per cent of the people in their age group in 2015, a sharp rise from 50 per cent about 15 years ago, according to the latest General Household Survey.

"The top reason cited by singles for not dating was not being able to find a partner. Hopefully, more singles will be proactive and take charge of their dating life, in a similar way when they pursue their career or other personal interests," said Dr Mathews.

Singles have become more open to online dating and dating apps, according to the study.

Around 43 per cent were comfortable with meeting a potential partner through online dating websites or apps, more than double from 19 per cent in 2012. Among singles who were dating or had dated seriously, 13 per cent met their partner through online channels, almost double from 7 per cent in 2012.

As more people go online to find love, industry players cautioned against using unaccredited dating apps which may harbour singles who are not looking for life partners. Ms Violet Lim, chief executive of Lunch Actually Group, said a delicate balance needs to be struck between making sure a mobile app is legitimate and ensuring the safety of users while not scaring users off by over-regulation.

Some singles, such as undergraduate Lim Jiamin, 21, prefer leaving dating to chance as being proactive seems "very forward" and does not reflect her character.

Student Melissa Mook, 21, also prefers to leave it to chance.

"I think for my age now, it is still okay to have such a mindset. However, if I am still single a few years down the road, I may adopt a more proactive approach."

Additional reporting by Lee Si Xuan

More seeking partners online: Survey
By Lee Si Xuan, The Sunday Times, 9 Jul 2017

After several failed relationships, administrative manager June Chan was married in January this year.

This, thanks to a dating app, she said. Ms Chan, 41, said her friends encouraged her to try esync, a dating app, after a break-up two years ago.

Now she actively encourages singles to try online platforms and dating apps as they "help in finding someone who's similar or matching in criteria".

"The profiles of users on the app help a lot. People that I met on the app were very compatible with me in terms of thinking," she said.

Ms Chan said she met her husband, Mr Tay Boon Wah, 42, in February last year on esync.

Like her, many Singaporeans are turning to social media platforms and online dating apps to find a partner.

The Marriage and Parenthood Survey 2016, released by the National Population and Talent Division yesterday, showed more Singaporeans are now comfortable with meeting their partners through online dating channels. The figure has more than doubled from 19 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent last year.

Among singles who were dating or had dated previously, 13 per cent met their partner through online channels, almost doubling from 7 per cent in 2012.

The study surveyed a total of 2,940 single Singapore residents between the ages of 21 and 45 years old from August to December last year.

Singaporeans whom The Sunday Times spoke to cited several advantages that dating apps and online channels have over old-school dating methods. Mr Eric Teo, 27, who is an active user of the popular dating application Tinder, said that online dating applications facilitate the search process for potential partners and reduce the likelihood of rejection.

"It's easier to meet strangers as people on the app are actively looking for people or at least open to the idea of meeting new people," he added.

Some also cited the convenience that online dating channels offer.

"You can use it on the go and especially so if you are busy, which might be a stumbling block to meeting new people and potential partners in real life," said Mr Desmond Sim, 31, who met his partner on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel.

Dads are chipping in, but mums still do more
By Janice Tai, Social Affairs Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 9 Jul 2017

Mr Mark Lim remembers clearly the longing he saw in the eyes of his two-year-old son as the young one woke up early to send him off to work.

"He used to hug and kiss me when I left for work at about 7am, saying 'Daddy, I will miss you'. It was a bittersweet and melancholic feeling.I couldn't bear to part with him but I needed to earn money to support the family," said Mr Lim, 40, then a secondary school teacher.

So in 2012, Mr Lim decided to quit his job to spend more time with his children. His younger son, Elijah, was a baby then and the older one, Zephaniah, was two years old.

The 2016 Marriage and Parenthood survey found that more husbands are sharing childcare responsibilities with their wives, though the bulk still falls on the shoulders of the women.

More husbands are helping their wives to feed and bathe young children or staying home with their children when their young charges are feeling under the weather.

However, most childcare responsibilities are still carried out by mothers, with mothers reporting to spend 2.6 hours on domestic chores on a normal weekday on average, almost twice that of the 1.5 hours spent by fathers.

Ms Sarah Chua, parenting specialist at Focus on the Family Singapore, said fathers are getting more involved with family responsibilities as couples who are both working are on the rise.

"More mothers are enjoying greater success in their careers. As such, the traditional roles of a mother being the primary caregiver while a father is the main breadwinner are evolving.

"This is a good development as research shows that children with involved fathers are more likely to be more confident, handle stress better and connect with others more constructively," she said.

Though Mr Lim resigned from his job, he was still busy bringing home the bacon by juggling various ventures. He runs a training and consultancy business, an online shop and is an adjunct lecturer in a polytechnic. He is also studying for a postgraduate degree in counselling.

"Back then, my wife did 70 per cent of the domestic chores, while I did the rest. But to me, playing an equal role in the house is not about splitting 50-50," said Mr Lim.

"It is putting in 100 per cent in the responsibilities that are your strengths. She does much better in ironing, for example. What is more important is I try to be present for the boys and meet their socio-emotional needs, beyond their physical needs."

Mr Lim shares a close bond with his sons. He knows that Elijah, now five, wants to be a marine biologist while Zephaniah, seven, hopes to become an architect, and he encourages them to pursue those interests.

His wife homeschools them and Mr Lim supports her by taking them out for learning excursions and family outings.

He teaches the children things such as World War II and the Japanese Occupation of Singapore by taking them to Fort Canning, for instance.

Said Mr Lim: "It is heartening to see fathers playing a bigger role in their families. I chose to invest time in the lives of my family, instead of just pursuing my career, because it is that which leaves a legacy."

His wife Sue, 41, said she and the boys welcome having more time with him: "It's precious family time."

She added: "It's so important for the boys to have their daddy around to spend quality time with them."

The globalisation of marriage markets
By Li Wenchao and Yi Junjian, Published The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2017

Q More Singaporeans are marrying foreigners. What are the causes and consequences of this trend?

A Cross-border marriages are becoming increasingly common, not just in Singapore but globally.

As the term "global hypergamy" depicts, marriage migrants are mostly women who move from underdeveloped areas to marry wealthier men abroad, showing a clear gender asymmetry.

Singapore is a typical destination country for cross-border marriages in Asia. The proportion of marriages between a Singaporean and a non-citizen spouse rose from 32.8 per cent to 38.7 per cent during the 1998-2008 period. This trend was primarily driven by a boost in marriages involving a non-citizen wife, the proportion of which rose from 24 per cent to 30.2 per cent. Marriages involving a non-citizen husband were less common.

An article titled "Marriage to foreigner less likely to last", published on Oct 30 last year in The Sunday Times, documented a trend of Singaporean men, mainly older and blue-collar workers who struggled to find local partners, seeking foreign brides from developing countries.

In our recent research, we studied the causes and consequences of the globalisation of marriage markets, by developing a theory of gender-asymmetric cross-border marriages. The theory suggests the main force driving global hypergamy is the interaction of two factors.

The first factor is the longstanding gender asymmetry in marital attributes. This means certain traits like age, income and looks are more valued by potential partners depending on one's gender. For example, age, an indicator of beauty or fecundity, is more important in evaluating the marital attributes of women, whereas income is more important in evaluating those of men. So younger women in poor regions are more attractive to men in rich regions than low-income men in poor countries are to women in rich regions.

The second factor is the recent decline in cross-border marriage costs, as technology makes it easy for people to get information on and communicate with prospective partners. This factor may raise the demand among men in developed countries for such marriages, which in turn stimulates the relevant service market like international marriage brokers and Internet dating systems. The flourishing of these matchmaking agencies reduces cross-border marriage costs even more, further facilitating such activities.

Our case study based on Hong Kong and mainland China provides clear insights into the role of immigration costs underlying cross-border marriages and the consequences of such marriages on the destination region.

From 2 per cent in 1986, cross-border marriages registered in Hong Kong made up 43 per cent of all marriages in 2006. The rise was triggered by a discrete increase in the one-way permit quota and the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Spouses or children of local Hong Kong residents are strictly required to obtain a permit before moving to Hong Kong. The daily quota for such permits was 75 in 1982, which rose to 105 in 1993 and 150 in 1995. This implies over 27,000 permits were issued yearly after 1995. Partners and children from the mainland normally had to wait eight to 10 years for the document before 1996, but only three to five years after.

Using Hong Kong census data, we compared marriage market and labour market outcomes between men and women, before and after the triggering events. We found that gender differences in the currently-married, ever-married and currently-divorced rates changed little from 1991 to 1996, but changed largely since then. For example, relative to men, Hong Kong women's currently-married and ever-married rates decreased by 8.8 percentage points and 6.8 percentage points after the triggering events, respectively, while the divorced rate increased by 1.8 percentage points.

These patterns were primarily driven by the triggering events. This would suggest that freer movement of people between Hong Kong and China resulted in more Hong Kong women not being married or getting divorced.

The data also shows that these disadvantages in the marriage market lowered Hong Kong women's bargaining power within the household. Relative to men, their probability of being a household head decreased by 8.5 percentage points after the triggering events. Finally, we found the adverse outcomes in the marriage market had an incentive effect on their labour market behaviour. They were more likely to participate in the labour market or take a second job.

As such, we can tentatively conclude that global hypergamy would result in a new pattern of regional and gender inequality in the marriage market. Men in affluent destination countries gain, as do women in poor source countries, because each group has access to more potential marital partners. But women in affluent destination countries and men in poor source countries lose, as they have more competitors in the marriage market.

As a typical destination country for cross-border marriages, Singapore would observe a rise in gender inequality along with the growing popularity of such marriages. Singaporean men would benefit from more potential brides; Singaporean women would become less attractive partners because of the influx of foreign competitors, and the resulting lower bargaining power within marriage may further discourage them from getting married.

Li Wenchao is a PhD student and Yi Junjian is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, National University of Singapore.

* Statistics on Marriages and Divorces, 2016


One in five marriages here is inter-ethnic in 2016

Latest data also shows dip in number of marriages last year, while divorces edge up
By Felicia Choo, The Straits Times, 19 Jul 2017

Inter-ethnic marriages made up more than one-fifth of all marriages here last year, and continued to be more prevalent among Muslim than civil marriages.

Last year, 21.5 per cent of total marriages were inter-ethnic, up from 15.4 per cent in 2006, according to the Statistics on Marriages and Divorces 2016, which was released by the Singapore Department of Statistics yesterday.

Such marriages made up one-third (33.9 per cent) of Muslim marriages, compared with only 18.2 per cent of civil marriages last year. However, there was also an increase in inter-ethnic divorces in the 10 years from 2006 to last year, from 11.1 per cent to 17.6 per cent.

The findings also showed that last year, slightly fewer people got married, while there was a small increase in divorces, compared with the previous year.

A total of 27,971 marriages were registered last year, 1.2 per cent lower than in 2015. In contrast, 7,614 marriages ended in a divorce or an annulment last year, up by 1.2 per cent from 2015.

The general marriage rate - for both unmarried men and women - has remained relatively stable since 2014, while the general divorce rate was unchanged from 2015.

People have also been getting married later over the last decade, with the median age at first marriage for grooms edging up from 29.7 years in 2006 to 30.3 years last year.

For brides, it rose at a faster pace from 27 years to 28.3 years over the same period, resulting in a smaller gender age gap.

These trends look set to continue into the future, said experts.

"While Singaporeans still believe in marriage and children, their priority is to get themselves on a surer footing career- and finance-wise first, which would lead to late marriages," said Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore's Department of Sociology.

He added that the rise in inter-racial marriages is due to a range of factors, including English being Singapore's common language, more people receiving post-secondary or higher education, a large permanent resident and non-resident population, and multiracial workplaces, universities and neighbourhoods.

These factors have created opportunities for people of different ethnicities to meet, and also made them more cosmopolitan, open- minded and adaptable to cultural differences, he said.

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