Mr Gan Thiam Poh
Ang Mo Kio GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) Over the last three years, what has been the number of divorces for each income group of our population and the percentage in relation to the total number of marriages;
(b) How many of them involved foreign spouses and what is the percentage in relation to the total number of marriages to foreigners for each income group; and
(c) Whether there is an upward trend in such divorces and, if so, what are the measures that the Ministry is taking to address the trend.
MSF tracks marriage dissolution on a marriage cohort basis. Marriage dissolution comprises divorces and annulments (with divorces making up about 95% of all dissolutions). Marriage cohort dissolution rates refer to the cumulative proportion of marriages from a particular year that have dissolved by a certain year.
We have used the 2007 to 2009 marriage cohorts as we can more meaningfully compare dissolution rates before the 5th anniversary from date of marriage onwards.
The population is defined as ‘resident marriages’, i.e. marriages involving at least 1 Singapore Citizen (SC) or Permanent Resident (PR). In addition, educational qualification is used as a proxy for income, as income is not a compulsory field when couples file for marriage locally.
For couples who married in 2007 to 2009, the number of dissolved marriages before the 5th anniversary for resident marriages remained relatively stable at around 1500 to 1600 per year (dissolution rate of 6.4% to 6.8%). In general, the number of dissolved marriages was lower for marriages involving grooms with higher educational qualifications attained (see tables 1A-1D). The number of marriages between a Singapore Citizen (SC) and a Non-Resident (NR) was around 6,000 to 7,000 for the 3 marriage cohorts from 2007 to 2009. Of these, around 400 to 500 marriages of each marriage cohort (7.1% to 7.9%) dissolved before the 5th anniversary. Based on the 3 marriage cohorts from 2007 to 2009, there appears to be an upward trend but more data points are required to confirm the trend.
The Ministry recognises that SC-NR marriages face unique challenges. As such, we have introduced marriage programmes in December 2014 to help these couples manage cross-cultural differences as they settle down in Singapore, and to strengthen their marriages. These programmes include the Marriage Preparation Programme offered before marriage, the Marriage Support Programme for newly-weds, and the Friendship Programme, which comprises family bonding activities, support group sessions and pairing of volunteers to foreign spouses as “buddies”.
The Ministry has also expanded marriage support for young couples. For couples marrying on and after 1 October 2016, couples where at least one party is below 21 years old will be required to attend a Marriage Preparation Programme conducted by MSF-approved organizations, before a marriage license can be issued. This requirement is in addition to prior parental consent. These programmes, which include a component on financial planning, help couples build strong marriages, regardless of income or education.
Table 1: Marriage Cohort Dissolution Rates before 5th Anniversary