More marriages and fewer calling it quits

While more couples got hitched in Singapore for the second straight year last year, many are tying the knot at a later age compared to a decade ago.

A report released yesterday by the Singapore Department of Statistics showed that the number of civil and Muslim marriages registered last year was 27,936.

This is a 2.5 per cent increase from 2011, according to the Statistics On Marriages And Divorces 2012 report. In 2011, the figure was 27,258, a 11.9 per cent jump from the previous year. The general marriage rate - for both unmarried men and women - also saw an increase in both 2011 and last year.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Daniel Goh said the rise in the number of marriages could be temporary, as it tends to happen when the economy is doing better.

Associate Professor Goh said: "2011 was a good year, with good bonuses at the end of the year that could have led to more couples deciding to tie the knot, using the extra cash to finance the wedding."

Prof Goh warned that marriage numbers may fall this year and the next, as economic growth slows.

In general, the report showed that the trend of men and women getting married at a later age continued last year. The median age for men marrying for the first time last year was 30.1 years, up from 28.9 years in 2002. For women, the median age increased from 26.3 years in 2002 to 28 years last year.

However, the marriage rate for older, unmarried men had a noticeable increase.

There were 96.5 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried men aged 35 to 39 last year, up from 89.2 in 2011. For men aged between 40 and 44, the figure was 65.2, up from 58.5.

NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser said men could be delaying marriage till a later age to reach a level of financial stability first.

Associate Professor Tan said: "We know that there is less income and job security, and thereby, greater need for job commitment in the face of greater competition experienced by both employees and companies.

"(This is) even as married people are expected to be more family- and child-centric than before."

Meanwhile, the number of marital dissolutions - which comprise divorces and annulments - dipped by 4.8 per cent to 7,241 last year.

Dr Goh said this could be linked to the better economy. "With fewer people experiencing financial problems, there would be fewer divorces. "

Couples who were married for five to nine years accounted for the largest group of civil divorces last year, at 30.9 per cent.

This was followed by couples who were married for 20 years or more, at 22.1 per cent.

While the number of divorce cases that family lawyer Linda Ong has seen remains relatively unchanged in recent years, she noted that more couples who have been married for 30 to 40 years are calling it quits.

"Divorce doesn't have that stigma as before. Although (these) people are older, they are better educated (today) and more aware of their rights, especially the wives," said Ms Ong, who is the director of ETP Law.