SINGAPORE - There has been a surge in the number of Singaporean men taking foreign brides in the past decade, a trend social workers worry about as many of these grooms are older and poorer, and their families face a host of challenges from poverty to abuse and immigration woes.
Last year saw 5,599 marriages between citizen grooms and non-resident brides - a 40 per cent jump from the 3,988 in 2002.
That accounted for 20 per cent of all marriages last year, up from 17.2 per cent in 2002, according to data released by the National Population and Talent Division in September this year.
More than 50,000 Singaporeans have married non-resident brides - those who are not citizens or permanent residents - in the past decade. More than 95 per cent of foreign wives are from Asian countries.
Although the report did not specify their countries of origin, social workers who help foreign wives say many of the women, usually in their 20s and 30s, hail from China, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Their ranks have swelled as more foreign women have been seeking out Singaporean husbands through compatriots already married to Singapore men, said Ms Elizabeth Tan, senior executive officer of the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI), a Catholic group that helps foreigners here.
Sociologist Paulin Straughan said the grooms, often in their 40s or older, and some into their second marriages, tend to be lower-educated men who find it hard to attract a local wife. They choose foreign women who they feel make fewer demands of their husbands.
In a paper on Vietnamese brides published last week in the journal Third World Quarterly, Professor Brenda Yeoh of the National University of Singapore geography department and a team of researchers wrote: "Working-class Singaporean men are increasingly seeking foreign brides as a more affordable way of securing various forms of care work, including household chores, caring for elderly parents, physical and emotional companionship, as well as reproducing and caring for the next generation."
Her team did in-depth interviews with 27 Vietnamese matched to Singaporeans by commercial matchmakers to find out about their lives and the problems they faced. The women were mostly in their 20s and early 30s, with the youngest just 18. Most had at least a lower secondary education.
Their husbands were mostly in their 30s to 50s, and the oldest was in his 70s. Most lived in smaller HDB flats.