SINGAPORE: Most singles desire to get married and most wish to have two or more children, according to key findings of a Marriage and Parenthood study commissioned by the National Population and Talent Division.
The study involved more than 4,600 people, aged between 21 and 45 years old.
It aims to understand the attitudes and motivations behind Singapore residents’ marriage and parenthood trends.
83 per cent of single respondents indicated that they desired to get married, little changed from the 85 per cent in the last study done in 2007.
Respondents said they were not married because they had not met a suitable partner, they wanted to concentrate on their careers or studies, and they did not have enough money.
For those in serious relationships, they said they were not marrying yet because they wanted to save money for housing and the wedding, and that they were too young to get married.
The study found that parenthood aspirations remained strong.
80 per cent of singles who indicated a desired number of children wanted to have two or more children. This is comparable to 84 per cent in 2007.
Among married respondents, 84 per cent intend to have two or more children, unchanged from the 84 per cent in 2007.
Both male and female respondents intend to have an average of 2.2 children.
Those who are unlikely to have any more children cited practical concerns like financial cost and good child care arrangements.
The Marriage & Parenthood Package was last enhanced in 2008 to strengthen the pro—family environment and support Singaporeans’ aspirations to get married and have children.
Married respondents indicated that maternity leave and the Baby Bonus cash gift were the top two policies that would most likely persuade them to have children or to have more children.
On work—life balance, 79 per cent of singles in the study felt that they had good work—life balance but said some areas could be improved.
However, 65 per cent were exhausted when they came home from work, 42 per cent had insufficient time to date, and 50 per cent had insufficient time to meet new people.
Among married respondents, 82 per cent reported good work—life balance.
However, 62 per cent of them were exhausted when they came home from work, and 54 per cent felt their job prevented them from spending as much time with their families as they would like.
These findings suggested that while Singaporeans generally perceive themselves as having good work—life balance, they may have accepted that achieving work—life balance requires trade—offs in other aspects of their lives.
In other findings of the survey, most respondents viewed having children as taking place within the institution of marriage.
80 per cent of single and 85 per cent of married respondents agreed or strongly agreed that only legally married parents should have children.
Many felt that more could be done to improve awareness and address misconceptions regarding fertility issues.
About 70 per cent of singles and 77 per cent of married respondents assumed that couples would have little problem having children, even when they were over 35 years old.
This indicated that many were unaware that male and female fertility declines with age, and assisted reproduction technology cannot compensate for the age—related decline in fertility.
The study also found that women desired family and employment at the same time.
80 per cent of single female respondents indicated their preference to be working mothers, comparable to 81 per cent in 2007 and 79 per cent in 2004.
Respondents were quite equally split between part—time and full—time employment options, although the percentage preferring part—time employment has increased to 40 per cent in 2012, compared to 19 per cent in 2007 and 21 per cent in 2004.
This suggested that part—time opportunities and more workplace flexibility could encourage women to remain in or return to the workforce.
Sociologist Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, from the National Universtiy of Singapore (NUS), said: "The challenge then for paid work in the next five years would be to mainstream flexibility. And, flexibility does not necessarily means part time work only, though that is important. Flexibility means being able to reorganise work structures and schedules so that we allow employees to work when they can and attend to their family when they can.
"It’s about moving forward to a new paradigm to measure work output, so in many of the jobs that we have in Singapore, you don’t have to be desk bound 9 to 5.
"You can be just as effective if not more effective if you are allowed that flexibility to come in earlier, go back earlier, come in later and go back later or maybe level up on technology, and where possible, allow work from home."
Those surveyed also voiced strong support for shared parental responsibility.
Given this feedback, the National Family Council said the government should be more aggressive in its measures like legislating paternity leave of one week for fathers or by making the fourth month of maternity leave gender—neutral.
Chairman of the National Family Council, Mr Lim Soon Hock, said: "Given the financial constraints often cited by couples, any enhancements to the Marriage & Parenthood (M&P) Package would be welcome.
"Today, both men and women in Singapore want to work to fulfil their career aspirations. It is therefore important to create an environment that supports shared parenting so that fathers can play their role in raising the family
alongside their working wives."
Associate Professor Straughan said: "Given that in the midst of all these challenges and constraints, Singaporeans are still holding fast to the importance of getting married, growing families, then I think there is a certain sense of urgency that we step up and build an environment, a conducive environment, to help them realise these aspirations. If we don’t, then over time...they give up and look for other alternatives."
The government is expected to unveil an enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package soon.
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