July 13 Marriages in Singapore hit 50-year high

More couples in Singapore are tying the knot than at any point in the last five decades - while the number of divorces is on the decline.

About 27,930 unions were registered last year, the most since records began in 1961.

Sociologists and experts said couples could be taking the plunge due to a "fairly stable" global economic outlook and the success of pro-parenthood initiatives.

"In Singapore, we tend to be busy and the cost of living is very high, and these can discourage couples wanting to marry," said Marriage Central Advisory Board co-deputy chairman Benny Bong.

"But the number showed that people are not put off."

About 43 in every 1,000 unmarried residents aged 15 to 44 got hitched last year, figures released on Wednesday revealed. This was the highest rate since 2008, although the proportion has generally been declining since 1990.

Also, the number of divorces and annulments fell by 4.8 per cent, the first drop in seven years. Sociologist Paulin Straughan said the relatively stable global economy could be encouraging couples to tie the knot as they "are not worried about things like losing their jobs".

She added that initiatives to promote family and parenthood also consistently drove home the message that marriage is valued.

Another factor is the increase in the number of Muslim unions, while more foreigners are also getting hitched here and the number of inter-ethnic marriages has continued its nine-year climb.

However, the Department of Statistics figures showed that the median age for first-time marriages has remained the same, at 28 for brides and 30.1 for grooms. Mrs Vanessa Monteiro was one of those who took the plunge last year. "My husband and I had been dating for about seven years and we felt it was time for us to move on to the next stage of our lives," said the 32-year-old, who works as an assistant manager in a hotel.

"Marriage is not a bed of roses... it really requires a lot of work. But it's comforting to know that you have your best friend with you and spend every single day together."

The other piece of good news in Wednesday's figures was the drop in the number of civil and Muslim divorces and annulments. It fell from 7,604 in 2011 to 7,241 last year - the first decline since 2005. But more divorces involved couples aged 45 and above. And those who had been married for five to nine years were at the highest risk of breaking up.

Associate Professor Straughan told The Straits Times that older couples may split up after their children leave home as there is no longer "something that gels the marriage together".

She said couples sometimes divorce within 10 years of marriage if they are unprepared for commitment, adding: "You have to learn how to live with each other."