Sunday, Apr 26, 2015Sunday, Apr 26, 2015

More Singaporeans taking foreign brides

Many of these grooms are older and poorer, and couples run into multiple problems

Published on Dec 22, 2013 7:57 AM
Mr Goh with Ms Dariyah and their children (from left) daughter Zharfitri, son Zharfan and daughter Zharfy. Ms Dariyah is his second wife. They met in Jakarta in 2000, and he got a divorce to marry her. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

There has been a surge in the number of Singaporean men taking foreign brides in the past decade, a trend social workers worry about as many of these grooms are older and poorer, and their families face a host of challenges from poverty to abuse and immigration woes.

Last year saw 5,599 marriages between citizen grooms and non-resident brides - a 40 per cent jump from the 3,988 in 2002.

That accounted for 20 per cent of all marriages last year, up from 17.2 per cent in 2002, according to data released by the National Population and Talent Division in September this year.

More than 50,000 Singaporeans have married non-resident brides - those who are not citizens or permanent residents - in the past decade. More than 95 per cent of foreign wives are from Asian countries.

Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!

Related Links

Background story


More than this number of Singaporeans have married non-resident brides - those who are not citizens or permanent residents - in the past decade


Over this percentage of foreign wives are from Asian countries

Affordable alternative

"Working-class Singaporean men are increasingly seeking foreign brides as a more affordable way of securing various forms of care work, including household chores, caring for elderly parents, physical and emotional companionship, as well as reproducing and caring for the next generation."

PROFESSOR BRENDA YEOH of the National University of Singapore geography department and a team of researchers, in a paper on Vietnamese brides published last week in the journal Third World Quarterly


Like many men, immigration officer Goh Ah Meng's life revolves around family and work.

He drops his children at school, plays with them - and even cooks for them.

Mr Goh is 59, and unlike most fathers his age, his three youngest children are all below 10 years old. And his second wife, Dariyah, an Indonesian, is just 33.

The sole breadwinner is also nursing a sad secret. His kidneys are failing, and he has been told by doctors that he will need dialysis soon.

Ms Dariyah, a housewife, does not know how dire his health condition is.

"I worry about how she will take the news, what she will do when I can't work," said Mr Goh, who takes home about $3,300 a month. "I try not to think of the future."

He met Ms Dariyah while on a holiday in Jakarta in 2000. He was 46 and married with a teenage daughter at the time. Ms Dariyah, a cashier, was just 20.

The way he tells it, they fell in love, he got a divorce, and he married her in 2004. Their children are Zharfan, eight, Zharfy, six, and Zharfitri, two.

The older two children have special needs - son Zharfan is hyperactive and has acute asthma. Daughter Zharfy has global developmental delay, which slows down the development of her language and motor skills, from walking to writing.

When The Sunday Times visited the family's three-room flat in Marsiling, Mr Goh was trying to read the popular nursery rhyme Rock-a-Bye Baby with the cherubic Zharfy.

When her father asked her to point out the word "rock", the pink-clad little girl cheerfully pointed to the word "cradle".

"She is six and still can't read," he said sadly. "That is just one of my many worries."

Ms Dariyah, who was initially on a long-term social visit pass, is now a permanent resident and can work if she wants to.

But her husband frets about who will look after the children when she is away. "They need their mother even more than most kids."

What advice would he give other middle-aged men considering marriage to much younger foreign women?

"If you love her, you should marry her," he said without hesitation.

There are problems, of course. "But love and children make all the trouble worth it."

Radha Basu