Ms Anthea Ong
Nominated Member of Parliament
Mr Mohamed Irshad
Nominated Member of Parliament
Ms Anthea Ong: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) in the last three years, how many foreign brides in transnational marriages are employed in Singapore; (b) how are their children supported in terms of integration; (c) how successful have the Marriage Preparation, Marriage Support, and Friendship Programmes been since they were introduced; (d) what has been the divorce rate of transnational marriages in the last three years; and (e) what support is given to divorced foreign spouses, especially those with no income.
Mr Mohamed Irshad: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development what support is given to family units comprising a foreign spouse in terms of integrating and entrenching themselves in Singapore.
1 We recognise that marriages between Singapore Citizens and Non-Residents may face unique challenges, such as cross-cultural differences. Therefore, in 2014, MSF introduced the Marriage Preparation Programme (MPP) and Marriage Support Programme (MSP) to help these transnational couples build a strong foundation for their marriage. The MPP focuses on key marital issues such as roles and expectations, communications, and conflict management, while the MSP follows up on the MPP post-marriage by helping Non-Resident spouses adapt to life in Singapore. The programmes are well received, with more than 98 per cent of the MPP participants reporting that the programme has prepared them for marriage, and that they could apply what they have learnt to their marriage. Similarly, more than 97 per cent of the MSP participants said that the programme has helped Non-Resident spouses adjust to living in Singapore.
2 In 2015, we also introduced the Friendship Programme, where a trained volunteer is matched to a Non-Resident spouse to help him or her integrate into Singapore. More than 85 per cent of the Non-Resident spouses who participated in the Friendship Programme reported that the programme has helped them adjust to living in Singapore.
3 To help Non-Resident spouses feel a sense of belonging in their community, the People's Association (PA) also organises informal chit-chat sessions to bring transnational families, other new immigrant families and their neighbours together. Between 2016 and 2018, PA organised 243 Residents' Committee and Neighbourhood Committee chit-chat sessions, reaching out to about 15,600 residents.
4 Most children from transnational families attend our local schools just like other Singaporean children, and interact with students of different backgrounds in their classes and extra-curriculum activities. Through the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum in schools, children also learn about our society's norms and values. Being immersed in our local school environment is the best and most natural way to ensure that they are integrated, and children of transnational families do just as well in school as any other children.
5 In terms of employment, over the past 3 years, an average of 14,000 Non-Resident spouses holding Long Term Visit Passes (LTVP/LTVP+) were employed in Singapore each year with a Letter of Consent issued by MOM. This figure includes Non-Resident grooms and brides married to either Singaporeans or Permanent Residents.
6 Transnational marriages are as resilient as marriages between Singaporeans. The divorce rates for transnational marriages before the 5th and 10th year anniversaries are comparable to that for Singaporean marriages from the same cohorts.
7 For Non-Resident spouses of Singaporeans whose marriages end in divorce, ICA would generally facilitate their continued stay in Singapore through a renewable LTVP, as long as they have custody over young Singaporean children. This is to allow them to care for their Singaporean children here. They can seek support from community agencies for a range of financial assistance and social services, and approach Social Service Offices (SSOs) for an assessment of their needs. SSOs and our Family Service Centres can also provide help and socio-emotional support, if needed.