One in five marriages here is inter-ethnic

Latest data also shows dip in number of marriages last year, while divorces edge up

21.5 per cent of total marriages here last year were inter-ethnic.
21.5 per cent of total marriages here last year were inter-ethnic. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Inter-ethnic marriages made up more than one-fifth of all marriages here last year, and continued to be more prevalent among Muslim than civil marriages.

Last year, 21.5 per cent of total marriages were inter-ethnic, up from 15.4 per cent in 2006, according to the Statistics on Marriages and Divorces 2016, which was released by the Singapore Department of Statistics yesterday.

Such marriages made up one-third (33.9 per cent) of Muslim marriages, compared with only 18.2 per cent of civil marriages last year. However, there was also an increase in inter-ethnic divorces in the 10 years from 2006 to last year, from 11.1 per cent to 17.6 per cent.

The findings also showed that last year, slightly fewer people got married, while there was a small increase in divorces, compared with the previous year.

A total of 27,971 marriages were registered last year, 1.2 per cent lower than in 2015. In contrast, 7,614 marriages ended in a divorce or an annulment last year, up by 1.2 per cent from 2015.

The general marriage rate - for both unmarried men and women - has remained relatively stable since 2014, while the general divorce rate was unchanged from 2015.

People have also been getting married later over the last decade, with the median age at first marriage for grooms edging up from 29.7 years in 2006 to 30.3 years last year.

For brides, it rose at a faster pace from 27 years to 28.3 years over the same period, resulting in a smaller gender age gap.

These trends look set to continue into the future, said experts.

"While Singaporeans still believe in marriage and children, their priority is to get themselves on a surer footing career- and finance-wise first, which would lead to late marriages," said Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore's Department of Sociology .

He added that the rise in inter-racial marriages is due to a range of factors, including English being Singapore's common language, more people receiving post-secondary or higher education, a large permanent resident and non-resident population, and multiracial workplaces, universities and neighbourhoods.

These factors have created opportunities for people of different ethnicities to meet, and also made them more cosmopolitan, open- minded and adaptable to cultural differences, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'One in five marriages here is inter-ethnic'. Subscribe