Survey Shows 82% of Young S’poreans Don’t Think Marriage is Necessary & Being Single is Acceptable

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It is going to be Chinese New Year soon. To my fellow single brethren, this means we would have to face that dreaded question from relatives we see once a year:

“When are you getting married?”

While the thought of potentially hearing this same question 30 times throughout the holidays will have us rolling our eyes to the back of our skulls, it may bring us some comfort knowing that we are not alone.

In fact, there are a lot of us out there.

IPS Conducted Pre-Survey Prior to Singapore Perspectives Conference

A recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) was conducted to shed light on Singaporeans’ perspectives and opinions on various topics, including family dynamics, well-being, employment, and other related areas.

Presented at the Singapore Perspectives conference, which was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on 29 January 2024, the survey engaged a total of 2,356 Singaporean residents.

They were polled between November and December 2023 in three groups: age 21 to 34, 35 to 49, and 50 to 64. 

Singlehood Accepted by Majority of Young Singaporeans

The survey showed that the majority of young Singaporeans do not think marriage is necessary, reflecting changing attitudes towards relationships and lifestyles in this day and age.

82% of respondents aged 21 to 34 find it acceptable for individuals to choose singlehood.

Among those aged 35 to 49, 78% agreed that it was acceptable to remain single.

Among those aged 50 to 64, 75% agreed that it was acceptable to remain single.

Marriage is Not Necessary, but is still Desired, Young Adults Concur

When asked about whether marriage is necessary, 70% of the youngest group think it is not necessary, 58% of the middle group and 50% of the oldest group feel the same.

Despite reservations about marriage and parenthood, a significant portion of young respondents still envision these in their future, driven by societal expectations and personal desires.

So, what is stopping them? Practical concerns, including pursuing career advancements and financial stability, hinder young Singaporeans’ readiness for commitment.

High costs associated with raising children also factor into their decision-making.

Young Singaporeans are also reported to experience higher levels of loneliness compared to preceding generations, compounded by escalating living expenses.

With reported higher levels of social isolation, digital interactions serve as a preferred mode of communication for the young generation.

Oof, that one hit closer to home than I expected.

Moreover, 72% of the youngest demographic believe that having children within marriage is unnecessary, in contrast to 63% in the middle group and 49% in the oldest group.

Nevertheless, 68% of the youngest unmarried individuals anticipate getting married, and 67% of those without children aspire to become parents.

(To which, I ask this question with the utmost respect: WHY?)

In all age brackets, the primary reasons for abstaining from dating or marriage include not encountering the right partner and opting to stay single.

Younger participants cite prioritising other commitments like career development and self-exploration as factors contributing to their reluctance to date and marry.

On top of that, they are burdened with limited time, energy, and money.

Meanwhile, older individuals simply express a stronger preference for remaining single as their reason to not get married.

In general, high housing, education, and healthcare cost and stress emerged as the top reasons for not wanting to have children across all age groups.

Adjunct senior research fellow at IPS Dr Chew Han Ei mentioned that young people of today have “checkboxes” before they can consider marriage and parenthood.

He said, “They want to check off their job, they want the ability to have their own home and a comfortable life, being able to travel twice or three times a year.”

Gender Disparities Surface in Survey Results

Women also expressed greater scepticism towards marriage and childbearing. 

Kalpana Vignehsa, the IPS senior research fellow who conducted the poll, mentioned that young women express the worry that, “they will be caught in the double bind of not having equal partnership in terms of running the family.”

“They talk about watching mothers burn out from being primarily responsible for the visible and invisible labour of running a family on top of full-time employment, and they aren’t convinced that their male counterparts are ready to be equal partners at home.”

She also mentioned that young women express the desire to find meaning in alternative life paths instead. 

When asked about how society should respond to inequities in expectations of familial labour, Dr Puthucheary recounts seeing during a recent walkabout under the Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency, fathers looking after young children as their wives shopped or played with older children.

It is an indication to him that some of these familial norms have already begun to shift.

However, with the aforementioned survey results, it can be agreed upon that more should be done.

Mental Health Support Ranks Third on Social Issues Younger People Care About

In the same survey, mental health support emerges as a key issue, particularly among younger demographics.

They advocate for greater assistance in educational and workplace settings, underscoring a growing awareness of mental well-being.

On the other hand, mental health is listed at eighth place for the oldest group, which aligns with how this group has a stronger stigma against mental health, said Dr Chew.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges as it heavily disrupted career trajectories and social interactions.

Said Dr Chew, “(Younger people) are at the life stage where they should be making transitions to the workplace, transitions to higher education, and they missed out on a lot of these opportunities during the pandemic.”

Young adults also express apprehensions about job prospects, desired salaries, benefits and working conditions.

In the survey, 55% of young people have expressed that given the opportunity, they would be more willing to work overseas, compared with 45% of the middle group and 33% of the oldest group.

Amid technological advancements, younger respondents exhibit greater preparedness for workplace disruptions.

They also display heightened civic engagement, both online and offline, reflecting a proactive stance towards social change.

IPS research fellow Wong Chin Yi, who conducted the study with Dr Kalpana, commends the youth involvement in civic activities, highlighting their sustained commitment to community participation beyond mandated school programs. 

The findings underscore the evolving priorities and aspirations of Singaporean youth, calling for tailored policy interventions and holistic support mechanisms to address their ever-evolving needs.

(You can also use these findings against your nosy relatives next week when they ask you about your marital status again.)

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