updated 4 Aug 2014, 06:14
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Marriages down, divorces up
by Priscilla Goy, Aw Cheng Wei

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."

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This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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