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Couples in Singapore want to have 2 or more kids, but many don’t due to high costs, stress: Survey

The 2021 Marriage and Parenthood Survey also found that a significant proportion of single respondents have never dated and are not proactive in dating.

SINGAPORE: While the desire to get married and have children remain strong among Singaporeans, many married couples have fewer children than they want to, according to findings from a survey on marriage and parenthood. 

The 2021 Marriage and Parenthood Survey, released by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) on Monday (Oct 10), found that there is a mismatch between aspirations and reality when it comes to forming a family in Singapore.

Nine in 10 of the married couples surveyed (92 per cent) said they would prefer to have two or more children, but in reality, about half of them (51 per cent) had fewer than two children.

One of the main reasons for not having more children was financial cost, with 64 per cent of married respondents citing that as one of the top three reasons.

Two other reasons they chose were “raising children in Singapore is too stressful” and “difficult to manage work and family demands”. Couples were also somewhat concerned about a lack of good caregiving arrangements, and some said they had difficulty conceiving.

When it comes to marriage, a majority, or 80 per cent, of young, single respondents - aged 21 to 35 - said that they intend to marry, a slight decline compared to the figure in 2016 (83 per cent) and 2012 (86 per cent).

Three-quarters of the respondents indicated that having a career and raising a family were equally important, and 14 per cent saw family as more important than a career.

The majority (77 per cent) of singles in the survey also want children. Those who were unsure or did not want children had concerns about the costs of child-raising, a lack of time and energy to care for children, as well as balancing work and family commitments.

Many agreed that flexible work arrangements make it easier for couples to start a family and have more children. Nine in 10 of married respondents said that flexible work would make, or had made it, easier for them to start a family.

The survey was conducted from February to June 2021, and the respondents included 2,848 singles and 3,017 married Singapore citizens and permanent residents, aged 21 to 45 years old.


The 2021 survey also found a shift in perceived gender roles, with nearly all (99 per cent) married respondents saying that fathers and mothers are equally important as caregivers for children.

The proportion of those who felt that “ideally, the mother should take care of her children full-time” fell to 24 per cent in 2021 for single respondents, down from 40 per cent in 2016. For married couples, it fell to 40 per cent from 56 per cent in 2016, said the NPTD in a press release.

But married women continue to do more at home compared to their husbands, especially when it came to child care. 

On average, women spent about six hours on a normal weekday on childcare, and 10 hours on weekends while men reported an average of 3.6 hours on weekdays and 7.7 hours on weekends. 

The survey found that a smaller proportion of women (59 per cent) were satisfied with the division of domestic labour compared to men (72 per cent).


According to the findings, half of the singles surveyed were not currently dating, and among them, 38 per cent had never dated before.

The top reasons cited were having a limited social circle (58 per cent) and not having many opportunities to meet potential partners (57 per cent). About half (48 per cent) said they preferred to leave dating to chance.

Single respondents were still most comfortable meeting potential partners through more organic and face-to-face settings, but more were open to meeting their partners online through dating websites and apps.

Among those who were dating, 29 per cent said they met their partner through online channels, a significant increase from 13 per cent in 2016.

Around 58 per cent were comfortable with meeting a partner through online dating websites or apps, compared to 43 per cent in 2016. 

NTPD said that the views from the survey will be taken into consideration as the Government reviews and strengthens marriage and parenthood support measures. 

The research consultants for the survey are sociology professor Paulin Straughan from the Singapore Management University and Dr Mathew Mathews, principal research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies.

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Source: CNA/hm(gs)


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