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Fall in Singapore marriages, divorces in 2020 amid Covid-19 restrictions, uncertainty

SINGAPORE — The number of marriages and divorces in 2020 fell substantially from 2019, data from the Singapore Department of Statistics (SingStat) showed. Covid-19 disruptions caused the fall in nuptials and may have contributed to marriage dissolutions sliding to a 14-year low, it added.

Fall in Singapore marriages, divorces in 2020 amid Covid-19 restrictions, uncertainty

The number of marriages in Singapore in 2020 fell 10.9 per cent from the year before, the Singapore Department of Statistics said.

  • The number of marriages registered in 2020 fell 10.9 per cent from a year earlier
  • The number of marriages that ended in a divorce or annulment in 2020 fell 8.7 per cent from 2019
  • This was the lowest number of marital dissolutions since 2006
  • SingStat said the drop in marriage and divorce rates was caused by disruptions during Covid-19
  • Experts said this was exacerbated by the uncertain global economic outlook and challenges to financial stability

 

SINGAPORE — The number of marriages and divorces in 2020 fell substantially from 2019, data from the Singapore Department of Statistics (SingStat) showed. Covid-19 disruptions caused the fall in nuptials and may have contributed to marriage dissolutions sliding to a 14-year low, it added.

Based on annual statistics released on Wednesday (July 7), the number of marriages registered in 2020 fell 10.9 per cent from a year earlier to 22,651. The number of marriages registered in 2019 was 25,434.

“This was due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including circuit breaker restrictions and safe management measures applied to wedding solemnisation and receptions from March 2020,” the department said.

For the number of marriages that ended in a divorce or annulment in 2020, it fell 8.7 per cent — from 7,623 in the previous year to 6,959 last year.

This was the lowest number of marital dissolutions since 2006.

SingStat said that the Covid-19 crisis, including measures taken during the circuit breaker period where non-essentail activities and movement were halted, “may have contributed to this decline”.

Infographic: Anam Musta'ein/TODAY

Couples had to put on hold all wedding plans due to the restrictions imposed during the circuit breaker period in April last year. They were later allowed to conduct solemnisations via video links.

Sociology experts who spoke to TODAY said that the drop in marriage and divorce rates during the pandemic is a global phenomenon exacerbated not only by the Covid-19 restrictions but also by the uncertain economic outlook and challenges to financial stability.

MARRIAGES

  • Annual average number of marriages between 2016 and 2020: 26,255. This is 5 per cent lower than the average annual number between 2011 and 2015

  • Median age for first-time grooms: 30.4. This is slightly older than the 30.0 median age in 2010

  • Median age for first-time brides: 28.8. This is slightly older than the 27.7 median age in 2010

  • Share of inter-ethnic marriages in 2020: 18.2 per cent. This is comparable to the 18.4 per cent in 2010

The age gap between couples in their first marriage also narrowed over the past decade. In 2020, the proportion of couples in their first marriage who were:

  • Either the same age or aged one year apart was 42.1 per cent, up from 35.4 per cent in 2010

  • Aged two years apart was 18.1 per cent, up from 15.5 per cent in 2010

  • Aged at least five years apart was 19.2 per cent, a drop from 28.3 per cent in 2010

The proportion of marriages involving grooms and brides who were both university graduates rose from 31.3 per cent in 2010 to 41.9 per cent in 2020.

In contrast, marriages involving couples where both parties had secondary qualifications and below fell from 18.1 per cent to 8.2 per cent over the same period.

  • Share of marriages involving higher-educated brides and lower-educated grooms: 18.6 per cent. This is a slight increase from the 17.2 per cent in 2010

  • Share involving higher-educated grooms and lower-educated brides: 12.6 per cent. This is a drop from 17.1 per cent in 2010.

“The increase in the share of couples with higher qualifications over the decade is a reflection of the improvement in the educational profile of the population,” SingStat said.

DIVORCES

  • Number of divorces or annulments in 2020: 6,959. This is 8.7 per cent lower than in 2019

  • Annual average number of marital dissolutions between 2016 and 2020: 7,424. This is slightly lower than the average of 7,439 in the previous five-year period

  • Median age at divorce for males: 43.2. This is older than the 41.0 median age in 2010

  • Median age at divorce for females: 39.5. This is older than the 37.4 median age in 2010

  • Median duration of marriage for divorced couples: 10.4 years. This is comparable to the 10.6 years in 2010.

  • Those married for five to nine years continued to account for the largest share of divorces in 2020, which is 29.4 per cent of all divorces

The majority of divorces in 2020 were initiated by wives, at 63.1 per cent for civil divorces and 72.2 per cent for Muslim divorces.

The top reason given by female plaintiffs of civil divorces for their marriage breakdown was the “unreasonable behaviour” of their spouse and the top reason given by male plaintiffs was “lived apart or separated for three years or more”.

More than one in five plaintiffs in Muslim divorces said that “infidelity or extra-marital affair” was the cause of their marriage breakdown in 2020.

WHAT ANALYSTS SAY

Sociology professor Paulin Straughan from the Singapore Management University said that while there has been a gradual decline in marriages over the years, 2020 was a “very difficult year” particularly for long-term commitments.

“First, with the uncertain global economic outlook and challenges to financial stability, many would delay long-term investments like marriage and family formation,” she said.

“That aside, the circuit breaker rules and norms on social distancing as well as restrictions on food and beverage all made it harder to plan for weddings.”

Dr Mathew Mathews, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore, said that couples may have also decided to postpone their weddings to a time when the restrictions have eased so that more of their family and friends may take part in the occasion.

This is given that many envision marriage celebrations to be once in a lifetime and therefore supposed to be grand events.

Dr Mathews predicts an uptick in marriages in the next year or two as couples whose plans were disrupted proceed with them.

“But the general trend for the number of marriages has been going down for some time and with predictions that a full economic recovery will take a number of years more, expectedly more people will be uncertain about marriage plans,” he said.

As for the dip in divorce rates in the last year, Prof Straughan said that it is not surprising because divorce is an expensive endeavour.

The experts noted that being confined at home during the pandemic has either caused tensions between spouses that may propel them towards a divorce or grant them the opportunity to mend broken relationships.

“The pandemic would have made salient to most people the importance of family and the need for committed relationships, especially when they have to stay home and depend on family members,” Dr Mathews said.

“But people respond to this reality differently — for some, the realisation of the need for a committed family relationship will push them towards wedding plans; for those who are married, the need to strengthen their marriage if it is veering towards divorce.”

Related topics

marriage Divorce family wedding Covid-19 Singstat

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