According to a recent Straits Times article reporting the findings of the latest Marriage and Parenthood Survey, six out of 10 single (meaning unmarried) Singaporeans aged 21-45 are “not dating seriously”. “Not dating seriously” means not dating with marriage in mind.
According to the article, a commonly cited reason for that is that young people nowadays prefer to “leave dating to chance”. While this might sound like people are just waiting to fall in love without proactive pursuit on their part, I don’t think it is necessarily true.
In other words, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Singaporean girls don’t date seriously because they hold unrealistic expectations that their “Prince Charming” would simply come to sweep them off their feet one day. I also don’t think it’s fair to say that Singaporean guys don’t date seriously because they are immature playboys.
Hence, let us take a look at three possible real reasons why many Singaporeans are not dating with marriage in mind.
1. Less view marriage as a necessity
Nowadays, few see marriage as the only testament to love, and even fewer see it as a means of survival. In the past, marriage was the sole livelihood of many women, and not landing a marriage would mean no source of income. In present-day Singapore, however, this is no longer widely applicable to both sexes.
In fact, it seems more unrealistic to expect young people nowadays to go through the initial stages of dating with the end goal of marriage already in mind.
Does it not make more sense to plan for marriage only after you’ve decided that the other party is a “keeper”? If we can tell people to exercise caution when it comes investing, shouldn’t we tell them to do the same for marriage too?
Dating someone with the intention of marriage is a big step from casual dating, as the relationship becomes a longer-term collaboration for both parties. In this collaboration, the couple would have shared assets and liabilities. Would marriage make one better off in the long run?
No one knows for sure.
However, that is not to say that getting married makes little or no economic sense. For instance, getting married means one can apply for a BTO flat early, and buying an HDB flat as early as possible comes with its perks, especially considering the long waiting time.
On the other hand, renting is an attractive option too, in the sense that it provides more flexibility and requires lighter financial commitment. Furthermore, according to SRX property, HDB rental price has fallen by 0.6 percent in June 2017.
2. Not every couple is ready to become parents
Popular financial/investment blogger AK once wrote in a blog post: “If you ask me, true love does not need a marriage certificate…Marriage, in my opinion, is to give the children legitimacy”.
But even with constant reminders that our “body clocks” are ticking, not everyone is keen on the idea of raising children.
One of the greatest measurable concerns is the financial commitment of raising a child.
According to an article by Today published in May 2016, the estimated cost of raising a child in Singapore ranges from around S$200,000 at the low end to around S$1 million at the high end, with about S$360,000 as a middle-range average.
According to theasianparent.com, it will cost at least S$340,000 to raise one child in Singapore from infancy to 21 years of age.
Some young couples are fortunate to have supportive parents who can take care of the child during their absence, help pay down the housing loan (thus less accrued interest), and lend the family car when needed, but not everyone is so blessed.
The middle-class lifestyle is getting costlier to maintain, not to mention that the married couple would still have to save up for the child’s future big-ticket expenses, which are likely to rise in cost as well.
Take education, for example, tuition fees at local universities have gone up every year for most undergraduate courses since 2010. Pursuing tertiary education overseas would be even costlier. Moneysense.gov.sg recognises this problem and advises parents to plan ahead for their children’s education using a combination of savings and financial instruments.
On the other hand, many people in their twenties and early thirties are not even confident about planning for their own lives, because—
3. The future is uncertain
Uncertainty is the only certainty there is. In Singapore, we see a slowing economy coupled amidst fast-developing tech and business realms. In order to be able to adapt to this, Singaporeans are urged to stay relevant by learning new skills and updating their CVs.
To be fair, it is very hard for young Singaporeans to foresee where their career and personal paths would lead to decades down the road.
Some of us might be seizing work opportunities abroad, thus turning our relationship(s) into long-distance ones. Some of us might be spending quite a significant amount of money on furthering our studies or re-education, thus we doubt that we would be able to fully commit to paying for housing loans and family expenses.
Right now, we are already telling our younger generation(s) to be ready for jobs “that do not yet exist”. But again, how do we tell our children what to do, if we ourselves could barely live up to the ideals and serve as good role models?
Before things get too sentimental, the point of this article is not to say that marriage is good or evil, but to point out that the conventional path of getting hitched and having kids is pragmatic for some yet potentially crippling for others.
I think many Singaporeans of marriageable age who choose to stay single are aware of the advantages as well as the risks of getting married, and therefore one can seriously say:
“I have yet to find the right one to withstand these risks alongside me.”