June 23, 2004
THE Singapore government, already saddled with the twin problems of a record-low birth rate and late marriages, has revealed that divorce rates in the city-state hit an all-time high last year.
In a report on marriage and divorce data, the Department of Statistics said the number of marital dissolutions, which include divorce and annulments, had tripled over the past two decades from 2313 in 1983 to 6561 in 2003.
This brings the dissolution rate to a record high of 1.91 cases per 1000 residents, up from 1.72 the previous year, said the report on the department's website.
The highest divorce rate was seen among those who married young, between the ages of 20 and 24. Their divorce rate also registered the highest jump in the past 20 years.
The most common reason given for non-Muslim divorces, cited by 49 percent of couples, was "unreasonable behaviour of spouse". The second most common reason was living apart or separation of three years or more.
Among Muslim divorces, personality differences were cited as the main reason by 43 percent of couples, while 16 percent attributed the failure of their marriage to infidelity.
For both Muslims and non-Muslims, it was usually the wife who asked for the divorce: 59 percent of Muslim women and 64 percent of non-Muslim women started divorce proceedings, the report said.
At the same time, the total number of marriages fell five percent from the previous year and Singaporeans were marrying at a later age -- 32 years for men and 27 for women.
The statistics provide little relief for the government, which has been urging its citizens to produce more babies.
Singapore's fertility rate stands at a historic low of 1.37 per woman in 2002, while a rate of 2.1 is regarded as the minimum needed to keep replenishing the population.
The government has resorted to offering greater benefits for would-be mothers in an effort to assuage fears that child-rearing in Singapore is too expensive.
It has also launched a "Romancing Singapore" campaign urging its citizens to find a partner, get married and start a family to reverse the long-term shrinking and ageing of the population.