Parliament: 14,000 non-resident spouses employed here each year on average over past three years

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan stated that transnational families have relatively stable marriages, and non-resident spouses are able to find work here.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan stated that transnational families have relatively stable marriages, and non-resident spouses are able to find work here.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An average of 14,000 non-resident spouses holding long-term visit passes were employed here each year over the past three years, with a Letter of Consent issued by the Ministry of Manpower.

Providing this figure in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 15), Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan added that transnational families have relatively stable marriages, and non-resident spouses are able to find work here.

He was responding to Nominated MP Anthea Ong on how many foreign brides in transnational marriages are employed here and the divorce rate of transnational marriages in the last three years.

The divorce rates for transnational marriages before the fifth and 10th year anniversaries are comparable to that for Singaporean marriages from the same cohorts, Mr Tan added.

He also told the House that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is reviewing programmes which support transnational couples' marriages, and will explore whether there is a need to offer new programmes.

MSF has several programmes to help bridge the cross-cultural divide between Singaporeans and their foreign spouses.

The Marriage Preparation Programme and Marriage Support Programme were introduced in 2014, while the Friendship Programme was started a year later.

The Marriage Preparation Programme focuses on key marital issues, such as roles and expectations, communications, and conflict management, while the Marriage Support Programme helps foreign spouses adapt to life here.

Meanwhile, the Friendship Programme involves matching a trained volunteer to a foreign spouse to help him or her integrate into Singapore.

The programmes have been well received, said Mr Tan, with more than 98 per cent of participants from the Marriage Preparation Programme reporting that it prepared them for marriage, and that they could apply the lessons to their marriage.

Similarly, more than 97 per cent of participants from the Marriage Support Programme said that it helped foreign spouses adjust to life here, while more than 85 per cent of the foreign spouses who participated in the Friendship Programme reported that the programme has helped them adjust to living in Singapore.

"There is always room for improvement," Mr Tan noted.

Asked by Ms Ong about what support is given to divorced foreign spouses, especially those with no income, Mr Tan said that for non-resident spouses of Singaporeans whose marriages end in divorce, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) generally facilitates their continued stay in Singapore through a renewable Long Term Visit Pass, as long as they have custody over young Singaporean children.

This is to allow them to care for their Singaporean children.

Foreign spouses can seek support from community agencies for financial assistance and social services, and approach Social Service Offices for an assessment of their needs, he added.

Social Service Offices and Family Service Centres can also provide help and socio-emotional support if needed, he said.