Marriages, divorces on the decline

Latest statistics show people here are marrying later, and more are tying the knot outside their race

A total of 27,007 marriages were registered last year, 4.3 per cent down from the 28,212 registered in 2017.
A total of 27,007 marriages were registered last year, 4.3 per cent down from the 28,212 registered in 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

Fewer couples tied the knot, but a smaller number also parted ways last year.

A total of 27,007 marriages were registered last year - the lowest in five years and 4.3 per cent fewer than the 28,212 marriages registered in 2017.

Both civil and Muslim marriages dipped last year, according to the Department of Statistics, which released the 2018 marriage and divorce statistics yesterday.

Meanwhile, 7,344 marriages ended in a divorce or annulment last year, a 3.1 per cent drop from the 7,578 marital dissolutions in 2017.

This came about as the fall in divorces or annulments among non-Muslim couples more than offset the slight increase in Muslim divorces.

Given the volatile economy, observers said financial considerations could have contributed to the falling number of marriages and divorces last year.

It is costly to get hitched, given the outlay needed in having a wedding and buying a flat. And it is equally expensive to divorce, as the couple have to split their assets and find new housing.


As in previous years, the age at which people here have been marrying continues to rise.

The median age at first marriage for grooms rose from 29.8 years in 2008 to 30.2 years last year, while for brides, it went up from 27.3 years in 2008 to 28.5 years last year.

This is because more people spend a longer time getting an education and building up their careers before they settle down, said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

Singapore Management University professor of sociology (practice) Paulin Straughan said they also seem to be spending a longer time looking for the right partner .

She said: "People believe that marriage is forever and unless they are very sure they have found a life partner, they wouldn't marry."

Both sociologists pointed out that there are serious implications on both the personal and societal levels of Singaporeans marrying later.

For example, as a woman's fertility declines with age, these later marriages could result in fewer babies being born. The number of babies born here last year fell to an eight-year low.

Another trend is that more people are marrying someone of a different race. Some 22.4 per cent of marriages were inter-ethnic unions last year, up from 16.7 per cent in 2008.

With more people working or studying abroad and more foreigners basing themselves here, the chances of meeting and marrying a foreigner are higher.

Prof Straughan said: "As people get to know one another, regardless of their race or background, prejudices melt. Singapore is all about integration, and inter-ethnic marriages are the ultimate level of integration."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2019, with the headline 'Marriages, divorces on the decline'. Subscribe