The nuclear family is still the dominant family structure in Singapore, but the proportion of such families has dipped over the years.
It fell to 49 per cent last year, from 56 per cent in 2000. Nuclear families refer to two-generation households of a couple living with parents or children.
In contrast, the proportion of one-person households and those headed by a married couple who are childless or not living with their children has increased - from one in five in 2000, to one in four last year.
In absolute numbers, there were about 300,000 of these two household types last year, up from 175,000. Of these, last year, about 100,000 were households with at least one member aged 65 and above.
Experts said the change in family structures could be due to several reasons, such as fewer couples having children - leading to more households of childless couples.
The rise in proportion of one-person households could also be due to more single parents living alone as more people divorce, said Mrs Claire Nazar, a member of the Families for Life Council, which promotes resilient families.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin revealed these figures yesterday at the annual Social Service Partners Conference.
As family structures change, help schemes and policies to address their needs may have to evolve too, said experts.
The changing family structures, other emerging family trends and ways to strengthen support for families were among the issues discussed at the conference by about 450 people, who included welfare group representatives, academics and policymakers.
National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan reckoned the changes in family structures are not necessarily a bad thing.
"The family is doing well in Singapore," she said. "The change just means that family forms have shifted, and we now have to learn how to support the needs of the emerging family forms."
With the proportion of nuclear families decreasing and the elderly having less support from their children, some experts pointed out the definition of "family" in policies may need to be relooked.
Mr Tan said the Government's guiding principle has always been the family as the first line of care and support. But fewer nuclear- family households could mean greater challenges in marshalling immediate family support.
"When I have fewer children to support me and my spouse, what happens then? Do we begin to also look at the extended family? What does it mean for policies?" he said, noting that policymakers may have to consider how to encourage people to support their relatives.
Mr Tan said that while community efforts were important, these "would not be enough without efforts by individual Singaporeans".
"The last mile is for each of us to complete - we all have to make deliberate choices to do better for ourselves, and our immediate and extended families."
This article was first published on May 23, 2015.
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