Marriage and Parenthood Survey 2021: Strong Aspirations Among Singaporeans To Start Families, Flexible Work Arrangements Preferred
The 2021 Marriage and Parenthood (M&P) Survey shows that marriage and parenthood aspirations remain strong. However, many married respondents have fewer children than they prefer, and many single respondents have not dated before. The survey was conducted from February to June 2021, with respondents comprising 2,848 single (never-married) and 3,017 married Singapore residents, aged 21 to 45 years old (refer to Annex A for details on the profile of survey respondents).
Key points highlighted by the survey:
- The ability to manage the costs of child-raising, as well as work and family commitments, is a key consideration for Singaporeans in making parenthood decisions.
- Fathers are important caregivers, and can be more involved in sharing childcare responsibilities.
- Most men and women want flexible work arrangements (FWAs), which make it easier for couples to start a family and have more children.
- Marriage and parenthood aspirations remain strong
A majority (80%) of young single respondents (aged 21-35) indicated that they intend to marry, though this is a slight decline compared to 2016 (83%) and 2012 (86%). Similar to previous surveys, a majority of single respondents (75%) indicated that having a career and raising a family were equally important, while 14% saw family as more important than career (Annex B, Chart 1).
When asked about their ideal number of children, the vast majority (92%) of married respondents indicated preference to have two or more children, comparable to previous surveys. However, in practice, about half of married respondents (51%) had fewer than two children (Annex B, Chart 2).
- In making parenthood decisions, key considerations include ability to manage costs of child-raising, as well as manage work and family commitments
Financial cost was the most common reason cited by married respondents who did not want to have (more) children. Other concerns included the stress of raising children, and difficulties in managing work and family demands (Annex B, Table 3).
For the married respondents who may have (more) children, financial security was the most important factor in determining whether or when to have a/another child. Another major factor was whether they would be able to cope with both work and family commitments (Annex B, Table 4).
For the single respondents, the majority (77%) of them want children. Those who were unsure or did not want children had similar concerns about the costs of child raising, a lack of time and energy to care for children, and balancing work and family commitments (Annex B, Table 5).
- Fathers equally important as caregivers, can play a greater role at home
Almost all (99%) married respondents agreed that fathers and mothers were equally important as caregivers for children, and 95% agreed that both parents should share equal responsibilities at home (Annex B, Table 6).
These sentiments reflect a shift in perceived gender roles. The proportion of those who felt that “ideally, the mother should take care of her children full-time” fell from 40% in 2016 to 24% in 2021 for single respondents, and from 56% in 2016 to 40% in 2021 for married respondents.
However, married women continued to do more at home compared to their husbands, primarily in the area of child-related care. On average, women spent about 6 hours on a normal weekday on childcare, and 10 hours on weekends. In contrast, men reported an average of 3.6 hours on weekdays and 7.7 hours on weekends. In general, women were less satisfied with the division of domestic labour compared to their male counterparts, with 59% of women saying they were happy with the division, compared to 72% of men.
Paternity leave encourages more shared parental responsibility. 97% of married respondents agreed that paternity leave allowed fathers to play a bigger role in their newborn’s life (Annex B, Table 6). Most (77%) married respondents felt that paternity leave would make/had made it easier for them to have children.
- Many agree that flexible work arrangements make it easier for couples to start a family and have more children
Both men and women prefer flexible work arrangements (FWAs), and this was especially important for those with young children (0-6 years). A large majority of married respondents agreed that the availability of FWAs would make/had made it easier for them to start a family (90%) and have more children (81%).
FWAs also help companies to attract talent and foster stronger employee commitment. 92% of married respondents agreed that they were more likely to join an organisation that provided FWAs, while 94% agreed that they were more likely to stay in such an organisation (Annex B, Table 7).
- Significant proportion of single respondents have never dated before, and are not proactive in dating
Of the single respondents surveyed, 50% were not currently dating. 38% of those who were not currently dating had never dated before (Annex B, Chart 8).
Among those not currently dating, top reasons cited were having a limited social circle (58%), not having many opportunities to meet potential partners (57%), and their preference to leave dating to chance (48%) Annex B, Chart 9.
- Growth in acceptance and use of online dating methods
The use of dating websites and apps have become more prevalent. Among single respondents who were dating, 29% met their partner through online channels, a significant increase from 2016 (13%) and 2012 (7%) (Annex B, Chart 10).
Around 58% were comfortable with meeting a partner through online dating websites or apps, compared to 43% in 2016, and 19% in 2012. That said, single respondents were still most comfortable meeting potential partners through more organic and face-to-face settings, including through social/recreational activities (90%), friends (88%), or through colleagues (82%) (Annex B, Chart 11).
- Need to raise awareness on fertility health
Many are not aware that reproduction technology cannot compensate for age-related decline in fertility. Over 70% of married and single respondents have the misconception that assisted reproductive technologies like IVF would have very high success rates for women above age 40 (Annex B, Table 12).
Building a Singapore Made For Families
Marriage and parenthood are highly personal life goals that most Singaporeans aspire towards. The Government will continue to support Singaporeans in fulfilling their aspirations to marry and have children, managing work and family commitments, and sharing parental responsibilities. The views expressed through the Marriage & Parenthood Survey will be taken into consideration as the Government reviews and strengthens our suite of marriage and parenthood support measures. More details about our marriage and parenthood support measures can be found at www.madeforfamilies.gov.sg and the Marriage & Parenthood booklet at go.gov.sg/mpbooklet.
About the Marriage & Parenthood Survey 2021
The 2021 M&P Survey was commissioned by the National Population and Talent Division, Strategy Group, Prime Minister’s Office, to understand public attitudes and perceptions towards marriage and parenthood. Please refer to Annex A for the profile of the respondents. Similar surveys were conducted in 2004, 2007, 2012, and 2016.
Professor Paulin Straughan and Dr Mathew Mathews were appointed as research consultants for the 2021 Survey. They were also the consultants in 2016 and 2012.
Dr Mathew Mathews highlighted changes in dating practices. “With more singles accepting the use of online dating sites and apps, such a method of finding a potential partner has become normalised. This gives more choice to singles who may have difficulties due to the nature of their work to be in contact with eligible partners. Technology-mediated dating may not be for everyone, though, and has limits. Singles who aspire to a couple relationship continue to benefit from embedding themselves in social activities and friendship networks where there is the possibility to meet and be introduced to potential partners.”
Professor Paulin Straughan emphasised changing gender and parenting norms. “As Singapore continues to progress and mature as a society, there is a convergence with the global shift towards more liberal attitudes on gender roles and expectations of marriage. A refreshing development is the emergence of the involved father. Younger men are more likely to embrace ideologies of fatherhood which encourage them to play a bigger role in their children’s formative years. Concurrently, there is a change in attitude towards children, where people are more likely to see child-raising as an intrinsically meaningful experience, rather than a transactional one (e.g. for support in old age).”