1. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will be setting up an Alliance for Action (AfA) to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships. Led by Minister of State for Social and Family Development, Sun Xueling, this AfA is part of MSF’s vision to actively bring stakeholders, community partners and Singaporeans together to co-create solutions and implement them to strengthen marriages and families.
2. Recent trends in declining number of marriages and earlier divorces are a cause of concern. In the recently published Statistics on Marriages and Divorces Report by the Department of Statistics, the number of marriages dropped 10.9 per cent from 25,434 in 2019 to 22,651 in 2020. This was due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Circuit Breaker restrictions and safe management measures applied to wedding solemnisations and receptions from March 2020. Consequently, the annual average number of marriages in the last five years (26,255) was lower than the annual average registered between 2011 and 2015 (27,635). While the general divorce rates for males and females have declined1, the proportion of dissolved marriages is higher among the more recent marriage cohorts2. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated some of these stressors. Parenting is now more challenging with children facing academic stresses and living up to societal expectations, exacerbated by the prevalence of social media. Recent incidents have highlighted to us the importance of effective parenting to support our young. An online counselling service run by the Community Psychology Hub and funded by MSF that was set up in April 2020 during the pandemic supported about 2,000 individuals between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2021, with over 80% seeking help for marriage, divorce, parenting and family issues.
3. In addition, vulnerable families continue to require support. These include single parents, families with early risks, such as marriages involving minors, as well as those which have experienced family violence. The National Anti-Violence Helpline that started in January this year has received about 3700 calls in the first six months of the year.
4. Families remain a key pillar of support for many Singaporeans. Based on MSF’s 2019 Social Attitudes of Singaporeans Survey, about 8 in 10 respondents reported that they would turn to their family for emotional support when troubled. Strong marriages form the foundation for strong families, which are the basic building blocks of society. Thus, this AfA seeks to nurture and co-create an ecosystem to strengthen marriages and family relationships, in partnership with the community and by building on some current initiatives as a foundation. The AfA will have a bias for action and start off with six focal areas (FA):
FA1: Outreach efforts to families through and with community partners
FA2: Support for Newlyweds
FA3: Parenting Together
FA4: Support for Single Parents
FA5: Support for Families with Early Risks
FA6: Strengthening Marriages and Families in Faith Communities
5. The six focal areas can be reviewed over time, sunsetting once they have completed their key plans while allowing new areas to be added as necessary. In this way, the AfA is geared to evolve organically, responding to different needs in response to pertinent marriage and family issues over time. The actions taken under each FA may also have different gestation periods as well as implementation timelines.
6. The AfA will be partnering Families for Life (FFL), Non-Government organisations, community partners and religious organisations in this endeavour, and build on current initiatives that work towards strengthening families. Members of the FFL will participate in FAs 1 to 3, which are aligned with their FFL@Community (FFLC) initiative3. They are looking to proactively engage community partners, ground up initiatives and Singaporeans across all walks of life with a view to improve outreach to families, support newlyweds and discuss effective parenting for pre-school and school-going children. The FAs will also partner other existing initiatives such as M3, which is a collaborative effort among MUIS, MENDAKI, MESRA to strengthen Muslim marriages and families, and bring in the Strengthening Families Programme @ Family Service Centres announced at MSF’s COS 2021 which will provide upstream preventive measures for families with early risks as well as support for families undergoing divorce. We also have a FA which brings together religious organisations as we respect how faith communities come together to support families.
7. “Families form the building blocks of our society and we recognise that families face challenges and stress. Recent statistics for families published in the Statistics on Marriages and Divorces Report also point out trends that we need to be watchful of,” said Minister of State for Social and Family Development, Ms Sun Xueling. “Even as the Government continues to enact policies in support of marriages and families, we recognise that a whole-of-community effort will go much further in supporting families. Many of our community partners care deeply about this and I look forward to working with them to build on current initiatives, bring together resources and co-create solutions. We also call on more segments of society to join us so that we can readily respond to any other emerging trends which may impact Singapore families in the future.”
8. Organisations and individuals who are keen to get involved can email us at MSF_AFA@msf.gov.sg.
9. Please refer to ANNEX A for the translation of key terms.
1 Divorce rate was 7.1 per thousand married males in 2015 to 6.3 in 2020, and from 6.6 per thousand married females in 2015 to 6.1 in 2020 respectively.
2 For example, among the 2006 marriage cohort, 16.0% of marriages had dissolved before the 10th anniversary compared to 8.7% for the 1987 marriage cohort. Likewise, 21.1% of the 2001 marriage cohort had their marriages dissolved before the 15th anniversary, compared to 12.3% for the 1987 marriage cohort.
3 FFLC aims to deliver evidence-based programmes to strengthen marital and family relationships as well as parent support groups.