Covid-19 brings families closer but there are changes in family structures: DPM Heng

Marriage rates have declined over the past two decades, and couples are having fewer children. ST PHOTO: THADDEUS ANG

SINGAPORE - Although the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the lives and livelihoods of many, one silver lining is how it has brought many families closer, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday (May 19).

He said: “For me, it had been a long time since I had so many meals together with my wife and children.”

But moving forward, there are important changes in family structures that Singaporeans must recognise and prepare for, he added, even as he noted that the pandemic has reinforced the importance of family, allowing Singaporeans to spend more time with their own.

Marriage rates have declined over the past two decades, and couples are having fewer children. There is also an increasing proportion of married couples getting separated earlier.

DPM Heng said society has become more open and diverse, with one in three citizen marriages involving a spouse from another country, and one in five marriages being inter-ethnic.

He added: "We must recognise that the needs of some families are evolving, as we continue to support strong families."

Strong families remain the bedrock of society, noted DPM Heng, who was speaking at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of local charity Focus on the Family Singapore. It was held at the Hilton Singapore Orchard hotel.

"Families are a critical part of our lives, where we share our joys and sorrows, where we support one another to overcome difficulties and challenges, and where we share our joy and fulfilment."

He highlighted the Ministry for Social and Family Development's efforts in designating 2022 as the Year of Celebrating Singapore Families.

The FamilyTrees initiative is among the various events held throughout the year to strengthen family ties. The collaboration between the National Parks Board and Families for Life provides Singaporean families with a child up to three years old an opportunity to plant a tree to commemorate the birth of their child.

Focus on the Family Singapore hopes to raise $1 million in donations to fund its family-centric programmes and campaigns for the year.

Last year, it involved more than 40,000 people in its family-building programmes. The charity said it is aiming to do more for sexuality education, parent-child connections and the building of stronger marriages in the future.

Among the programmes it is raising funds for is a date night for young married couples. Called Best Date Ever, it aims to provide them with a chance to reconnect and rediscover their marriage.

Its chief executive Joanna Koh-Hoe said: "Today's increasingly volatile and digitally immersed world unfortunately places new and more complex challenges on everyday families.

She added that building on the foundation of strong family values and healthy relationships will continue to be important. 

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