SINGAPORE : Latest figures from the National Population and Talent Division show a growing number of singles in Singapore.
More Singaporeans are also marrying later, having babies at a later age, and correspondingly fewer children.
The report on marriage and parenthood trends also shows an increasing number of children of mixed parentage.
The report shows that the proportion of singles has increased across all age groups between 2000 and 2011.
Among those between the ages of 30 and 34, singlehood rates went up to 44 per cent (from 33 per cent) for men and 31 per cent (from 22 per cent) for women.
The median age where men get hitched is now 30 and 28 for women (from age 28.5 to 30.1 for men and age 26.1 to 27.8 for women).
Experts said the problem is not unique to Singapore. They said people tend to put off marriage till much later as they get more educated and focus on their studies and careers first.
CEO of match making agency Lunch Actually, Violet Lim, said that sometimes, all that is needed is a little nudge and some coaching.
She said: "Do not see it as being mutually exclusive, you can date and at the same time, focus on your career as well. I think it is about role models. It is important to let the younger singles know that there are people who put their career at the back burner for a while and focus on their relationships and building families and when they come back later, they still can work on their career, but you can’t do it the other way round...it might be a bit too late".
Meanwhile, when they do marry, more women are having just one child or none at all.
The declining birth rate is evident across all ethnic groups.
But the report shows that there are more marriages between Singaporeans and foreigners, and a corresponding increase in children of mixed parentage.
They make up about a third (31.1 per cent) of citizen births last year compared to 24.8 per cent in 2000.
Associate Professor Paulin Tay—Straughan, from the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore, said: "This means that we can no longer say this is a minority and therefore we do not need to focus too much on them. What are the implications when we see so many more marriages between Singaporeans and non—Singaporeans? I think two main ones.
"The first is, you need to make sure the children from these mixed marriages choose to stay in Singapore because they are our kids, they make up 30 per cent of our children. I think it is very important that in the midst of recalibrating the differences between Singaporeans and non—Singaporeans, we are very careful that we maintain an inclusive tone...because in these families, one half of the parentage are Singaporeans, so you want both parents to buy in to calling Singapore home. So their children will be stably anchored here and be counted as one of us.
"The second is a more long—term perspective because children from mixed marriages, where one parent is a non—Singaporean, would have the privilege of choice in terms of citizenship. We currently do not allow dual citizenship. So it means that at any one time, we win some, we lose some. But if this group of children with dual citizenship grows, I do not think we can afford to take such a casual attitude towards how much we win and how much we lose...especially when we have such ultra low fertility, every child is important."
Experts said that while policies can be tweaked, it is not a silver bullet to solving Singapore’s total fertility rate problem. They said one major area that needs to be addressed is the social climate. An example is pushing for greater work—life balance.
Dr Mathew Mathews, a research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, feels that Singapore needs to re—look the way it has been pursuing competitiveness.
Dr Mathews said: "I think...our work culture is one that is extremely competitive and people feel that they will lose out very easily if they do not put in that 24—7 kind of commitment to work.
"Can we work smarter? Is it necessary that if we work more hours, that means you are more committed to the company, you produce, more better work? There may not be that kind of relation. We may hear this anecdotally; in other countries, people do stick to the 9—5 order of work, they go back when the time is up, and they also do seem to do that kind of productive work"."
Authorities here will study examples of other countries to see what will work for Singapore.
But the report also points out that the healthy fertility rate seen in some Nordic countries is the result of children born out of wedlock.
The figure ranges from 30 per cent to more than 50 per cent, compared to just 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent in East Asia.
The report said that "out—of—wedlock births would be a significant departure from Singapore’s societal norms, and are likely to lead to major changes in the make—up of our society and give rise to other social issues".
Dr Tay—Straughan said: "It is important for the sake of the child because when you have a child who is born within a legalised union, the state and society then ties the father and mother to the responsibility of parenthood. You hold the parents responsible for the well—being of the child.
"Are we prepared to take a more liberal approach to this? I am not sure, at what cost? In the worst case scenario, women would lose, because if you have parenting out of wedlock, usually it is a single mother who ends up with the child, and we know from various studies that show that when you have single parents, especially young single parents, because of their limited resources, the children are the ones who may end up suffering, so does the mother."
As part of the public engagement leading to the white paper on Population, members of the public can give their feedback through the
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