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Fewer marriages and more divorces in 2019 than in 2018; trend likely to continue, analysts say

SINGAPORE — Fewer couples got married last year than in 2018 and the number of divorces have gone up, data released by the Department of Statistics Singapore on Tuesday (July 28) showed.

Fewer marriages and more divorces in 2019 than in 2018; trend likely to continue, analysts say

The longer-term marriage and birth trends remain positive and indicate that Singaporeans continue to value settling down and forming families, the National Population and Talent Division said.

  • The number of marriages fell in 2019 compared with 2018, but the number of divorces went up
  • Comparing two five-year periods, the number of marriages went up
  • The number of live births went up a mere 0.8 per cent from 2018 to 2019
  • Analysts said that birth numbers may decline further as people delay major family decisions due to Covid-19 

 

SINGAPORE — Fewer couples got married last year than in 2018 and the number of divorces have gone up, data released by the Department of Statistics Singapore on Tuesday (July 28) showed.

Over the span of two five-year periods though, the annual average number of marriages between 2015 and 2019 is 2 per cent more than in the five years before, between 2010 and 2014. 

In a separate set of statistics published by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority on the same day, the number of babies born last year increased slightly compared with the year before.

Commenting on the figures, the National Population and Talent Division, under the strategy group at the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the longer-term marriage and birth trends remain positive.

“(They) indicate that Singaporeans continue to value settling down and forming families,” its spokesperson said, adding that year-on-year fluctuations should be considered against the backdrop of longer-term trends. 

Analysts approached by TODAY said that the number of marriages and births will likely continue to decline in the next year, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is even though circumstances may be conducive for couples to have “Covid babies”, one said.

MARRIAGES 

  • Number of marriages in 2019: 25,434. This is 5.8 per cent lower than in 2018

  • Annual average number of marriages between 2015 and 2019: 27,389. This is 2 per cent more than the average annual number between 2010 and 2014

  • Median age for first-time grooms: 30.4. This is slightly older than the 29.8 median age in 2009

  • Median age for first-time brides: 28.8. This is slightly older than the 27.5 median age in 2009

  • Proportion of marriages where brides are older: 18.3 per cent. This is a higher proportion than the 16 per cent in 2009

  • Share of inter-ethnic marriages in 2019: 22.9 per cent. This is a bigger share than the 18.4 per cent in 2009

DIVORCES

  • Number of divorces or annulments in 2019: 7,623. This is 3.8 per cent higher than in 2018 

  • Annual average number of marital dissolutions between 2015 and 2019: 7,536. This is 1.8 per cent more than the average annual number between 2010 and 2014

  • Median age at divorce for males: 43.4. This is older than the 40.5 median age in 2009

  • Median age at divorce for females: 39.3. This is older than the 36.9 median age in 2009

  • Median duration of marriage for divorced couples: 10.4 years. This is slightly longer than the 10.1 years in 2009

  • Those married for five to nine years accounted for the largest share of divorces in 2019, which is 29 per cent of all divorces

BIRTHS

  • Number of live births in 2019: 39,279. This is 0.6 per cent more than in 2018 

  • Crude birth rate: 8.8 per 1,000 Singapore residents, the same as in 2018

  • Ethnic breakdown of births: Chinese 59.3 per cent; Malays 19.4 per cent; Indians 10.4 per cent; and other ethnicities 10.6 per cent

  • Median age of first-time mothers: 30.8 

  • Teenage births in 2019: 280. This is 3.1 per cent lower than in 2018.

  • Single-parent births in 2019: 380. Of these, 25.3 per cent were born to teenagers

DEATHS

  • Number of deaths in 2019: 21,466. This is a 0.8 per cent increase from 2018

  • Top two causes of death: Tumours caused by cancer, as well as heart and hypertensive diseases. Both account for 51.8 per cent of total deaths

  • Unnatural causes of death such as accidents and suicides: 4 per cent of total deaths 

  • Median age at death in 2019: 77.4. This is older than the 74.4 median age in 2010

  • Median age at death for males: 73.7 

  • Median age at death for females: 80.7

WHAT ANALYSTS SAY 

Sociology professor Paulin Straughan from the Singapore Management University said that the year-on-year decline in marriage rates was disappointing, although the slight increase over the long term shows that marriage remains an important life goal among young Singaporeans. 

However, examined over the same long-term period, the number of divorces and or annulments between 2015 and 2019 was 1.8 per cent more than between 2010 and 2014. 

Sociology professor Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore said that this could be the beginning of the decline in marriages and the rise in divorces. 

“Both of which could be due to value shifts towards greater acceptance of cohabitation and singlehood and divorce, mutually higher expectations of marriage partners, lack of work-life balance, work pressure, financial issues resulting from retrenchment and unemployment,” he added. 

Prof Straughan suggested removing one of these obstacles to making marriages work, particularly in improving work-life balance and also having flexible work arrangements. 

“One thing we might want to promote and encourage is concurrency of important milestones in a young person’s life,” she said. This means that career goals can take place alongside relationship commitments. 

Prof Straughan said that birth rates are also inadvertently affected by the delaying of marriages, because Singaporeans generally still practise procreation within a legally recognised marriage.

She worries that the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 may delay marriage and procreation plans among younger Singaporeans even further, although she has anecdotally heard of incidences of “Covid babies”, given that couples make more time for each other this year since they are forced to stay home. 

“People might delay long-term investments like getting married, and buying a home and starting a family. I’m not sure if ‘Covid babies’ will help to mitigate the rest of the bad news,” she said. 

Based on the factors that he had mentioned, Assoc Prof Tan believes that overall, marriages, divorces and births could decline further next year. 

Illustration: Samuel Woo/TODAY

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