Mr Mohamed Irshad
Nominated Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development what are the measures taken by the Ministry to strengthen the institution of marriage among young couples and to encourage them to get married.
1 Based on the 2016 Marriage and Parenthood Survey, 83 per cent of Singaporeans aged 21 to 35 who are single aspire to get married. The Government will continue to support their marriage aspirations.
2 Most singles prefer meeting potential partners in natural settings, such as at recreational or social activities, or through introductions by friends and colleagues. We have therefore been working with partner agencies to identify natural settings for singles to meet, grow their social networks and form meaningful relationships. These include events such as Sports Hub's 'Community Play Day' and the Urban Redevelopment Authority's 'Countdown@Civic District'. The Social Development Network, or SDN, funds initiatives by community partners and organisations to bring singles together. SDN also helps dating agencies improve their services through accreditation and funding. To provide more interaction opportunities through interest- and activity-based initiatives, SDN organises the Spark Connections campaign twice a year, where accredited agencies offer a wide array of events and programmes at subsidised prices, ranging from trendy, lifestyle based events to self-development workshops.
3 We also recognise that many couples aspire to have a home of their own when they get married. We have stepped up our efforts to make it faster and easier for young couples who have decided to settle down to apply for a flat. Since 2015, HDB has launched more than 50,000 new Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, with at least 70 per cent to 85 per cent of these set aside for first-timer families. First-timer families applying for a BTO flat in non-mature estates will be able to select a flat within two to three tries. HDB also launched the first batch of 1,100 BTO flats with shorter waiting times of about 2 to 3 years in 2018, with another 2,000 such flats scheduled for launch in 2019. We have also enhanced housing grants for resale flats, to better support couples who choose to buy resale flats. HDB has also introduced flexibility in 2018 to allow young couples who are studying or serving NS to defer their income assessment for housing loans and grants till before keys collection, instead of at the point of flat application, when they may not have met the minimum period of employment to qualify for housing grants.
4 Besides helping singles find suitable partners, we must also continue to strengthen and support marriages. MSF works closely with our partners to offer marriage preparation programmes to couples of all ages. These programmes help couples better understand their roles and manage their expectations of married life. The programmes also equip them with useful communication and conflict resolution skills. Tailored programmes are also available for couples with specific needs, such as cross-cultural and remarrying couples.
5 Couples who marry at a very young age may need more support to prepare for marriage. They may also face additional stress if they become parents shortly after marriage, increasing the risk of marital conflict. Hence, we have recently made it mandatory for couples where either party is a minor (below 21 years old) to undergo marriage preparation programmes before they can apply for marriage. This applies for both civil and Muslim marriages. These programmes include group marriage education workshops that equip couples with skills and knowledge on topics such as communication, conflict resolution and management of household finances, and one-to-one consultation sessions to help couples make informed decisions about marriage. There are also optional post-marriage programmes to provide continued support for couples in areas such as marriage enrichment and parenting.
6 Marriage is hard work and the relationship needs to be constantly nurtured. We work with partners such as the Families for Life Council and family life and marriage educators to provide a suite of marriage enrichment programmes at workplaces and in the community, to equip couples with insights and tips to strengthen their marriages. The Families for Life Council also organises an annual "I Still Do" initiative, where there are marriage talks, bonding activities and online content to engage couples in conversations on marriage, and encourage couples to continue to date and reaffirm their commitment to each other.