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    Mar 11, 2016

    More S'pore residents delaying marriage

    MORE Singapore residents in their mid to late 20s are staying single, with most putting their career before marriage, said experts.

    They make up 70 per cent of the people in their age group last year, a sharp rise from 50 per cent about 15 years ago, the latest General Household Survey shows.

    Their decision to delay marriage has hurt the country's fertility rates, and more needs to be done to get them to find their partners earlier in life, possibly even at university, said sociologists interviewed yesterday.

    The decision not to get hitched is as prevalent among men as women in the 25-29 age group, often viewed as mature enough to marry.

    Proportionally, their numbers have been rising steadily in the last 15 years, government surveys and population censuses show.

    For instance, bachelors form 64 per cent of their cohort in 2000. But this rose to 70.6 per cent (2005), 74.6 per cent (2010) and 80.2 per cent (2015).

    But as they grow older, many do get married.

    The latest 10-yearly household survey shows the proportion of married people among the resident population has hardly changed in the last 15 years.

    Overall, the proportion of married people hovers around 60 per cent of the resident population, which refers to citizens and permanent residents.

    The main reason young people are not marrying earlier is that more are better-educated and choose to focus on their careers, said National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologists Paulin Straughan and Tan Ern Ser.

    Said Prof Straughan: "The pressure to perform is very strong as the rewards of employment are immediate. There's a promotion at the end of the year, a bonus and you get praised.

    "But if you invest time to find a life partner, nobody's going to praise you."

    Having enough money to set up home and start a family is also a concern for some like legal counsel Lionel Liu, 29, who said he plans to get married to his girlfriend in a few years.

    He noted that his parents had been working for around six years by the time they got married at the age of 24.

    But he and his men friends had graduated around the age of 25. "We have to spend the first three years of our working life paying off university loans, and only after that can we think about what's next."

    Others may prefer to enjoy the freedom of singlehood before taking the plunge into married life, Prof Tan said.

    Fresh graduate Robin Neo, 28, said: "I'm okay with marrying even in my twilight years because I'm not looking to have children."

    But for those who want children, the biological clock is ticking.

    The survey shows the average number of children born to resident women, who have married at least once, dipped from 2.24 in 2010 to 2.14 last year. They include widows and divorcees.

    Prof Straughan suggested targeting efforts to encourage earlier marriage at those who are not dating.

    "It's not that they don't value marriage and family. But if you don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend yet, you tend not to focus on forming a family."

    But finding a significant other can be awkward in Singapore, she added. "There's no culture here where you can walk into a bar and say: 'Hi singles, I'm here.' It's even harder if all they do is work."

    Additional reporting by Rachel Chia