Why It Matters

Home in on finding love

Given Singapore's stubbornly low birth rate, last year's record high of 28,407 marriages is good news.

The figure is the highest in the past five decades, since record-keeping began in 1961.

Statistics released on Wednesday also showed that the increase is not simply due to population growth. The marriage rate last year was the highest in at least 10 years.

What contributed to the record high and what needs to be done for this trend to continue? One cannot assume it will - marriage rates fell by about 3 percentage points in 2013.

While marriage is a personal matter, it is also an issue of national concern as marriage rates affect birth rates.

Singapore's total fertility rate last year was 1.25, much lower than the replacement rate of 2.1.

If there is no improvement in the birth rate, the citizen workforce will start to decline by 2020 and the citizen population by 2025 if there is no immigration.

Experts said the rise in marriages could be due to the increased availability of housing - a point echoed by the National Population and Talent Division in February when it released data about marriages involving at least one citizen.

The slew of benefits in the Government's Marriage and Parenthood Package - introduced in 2001 and enhanced thrice since then - may also have borne fruit.

But a poll by the Institute of Policy Studies last year showed that perks like the Baby Bonus cash and maternity leave seem less effective than they were before.

While subsidies are always welcome, encouraging married couples to have children is not just about the money.

The latest findings suggest that the authorities may need to pay more attention to helping couples set up a home in the first place.

And with couples tying the knot later, reducing their chances of having children, the next challenge is to convince young working adults to find love earlier.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2015, with the headline 'Home in on finding love'. Print Edition | Subscribe