Since 1980, the divorce rate in Singapore has roughly doubled from 3.8 per 1,000 married resident males (or 3.8 per 1,000 married resident females) to 6.9 per 1,000 married resident males in 2017 (or 6.5 per 1,000 married resident females). This trend isn't limited to Singapore: studies have shown that divorce rates have doubled globally between 1970 and 2008.
One of the biggest contributors to this change was culture, where individual happiness became more important than "traditional" values. As such, the stigma around the separation of spouses became less commonplace, especially when the marriage is clearly not working out for either party.
Divorce Rates Declining for Younger Couples, but Increasing for Older Ones
After hitting its peak in 2007, the divorce rate in Singapore has been steadily declining. Interestingly, a huge driving force behind this trend was millennials. In contrast to older generations, younger couples have been getting divorced a lot less than they were in 2007.
For example, the divorce rate of males aged between 20 to 34 has declined by 20-30% from 2007 to 2017. It has also declined similarly for females in the same age group, though to a less extent for the youngest group in the 20-24 years of age.
Millennials Are Marrying Later
One of the reasons why millennials are divorcing less might be because they are taking more time to get married, as shown in the chart below. In other words, millennials taking more time to get married could be helping them be more cautious and selective in picking their partners (and sometimes even cohabiting before marriage), ultimately leading to more stable unions.
On the flipside, it could also mean that they are able to have more stable marriages because they have more time to prepare themselves for it, financially, emotionally or in any other ways.
Financial Burdens of Marriage and Being Single
Last on our list of potential reasons why millennials are divorcing less is the rising financial burdens of separation. First, weddings themselves have gotten very expensive, costing about S$40,000 on average.
The rising cost of living and wedding means that millennials may need to wait longer to get married (as we explored above), and economic scale advantages of a married couple may produce additional incentive to stay together.
But, Singaporean Millennials Are Still Divorcing More Than Their Parents
One big caveat of our findings is that millennials are still divorcing more than their parents. For example, the divorce rate of those aged 45 or more, though rising, remain below 10 divorces per 1,000 married residents, at least 40% lower than that of millennials.
Still, that divorce rate for younger couples has declined so dramatically is indeed a positive sign. No matter how bad the marriage had been, resetting your life after separating from your spouse can bring a lot of upheavals in your life.
Divorces can also be financially painful, with uncontested divorce costing about S$2,500 to contested ones costing about S$24,000 in Singapore. That more and more millennials are avoiding this emotionally and financially costly mistake sounds like a good reason to celebrate.