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International News Archive
December 06 - December 12, 1999


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This page contains news for the period Monday, December 06, 1999 through Sunday, December 12, 1999.





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Sunday, December 12, 1999

Singapore promotes marriage in effort to boost nation's birth rate

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that government matchmakers are trying to sell younger Singaporeans on the idea of getting married in a bid to boost the nation's falling birth rate.

The Social Development Unit is targeting university students who are too busy studying to socialize, government-controlled TV said Sunday.

The SDU sets up group activities, pen pal services and even Internet sites in attempt to help shy singles find mates in the conservative, hardworking city-state.

It will add seminars for undergraduates and urge parents to help children view marriage more positively.

"Ultimately, marriage is one of life's goals,'' SDU director Susan Chan said in the report carried by Singapore's Channel News Asia.

Earlier government campaigns to slow Singapore's birth rate proved too successful. Recorded births dipped from 47,510 in 1997 to 43,970 last year in the island republic of 3.2 million.

Single mothers in Australia often stereotyped unfairly

A story published today in the Sunday Telegraph says that single mothers are often given a bum rap when they are unfairly stereotyped in a negative manner.

For example, it was just such a stereotype that Melissa Taylor couldn't seem to shake.

The tall, blonde, over-achieving executive from Vaucluse only had to list her "other" occupation for mouths to fall open.

"I'm a single mother," she would say to the private school her son attends, or business clients, or men she met at parties. "And their mouths would just drop open," she laughs.

"They'd say: 'But you don't look like a single mother.' Whatever that means."

What that means, say the experts, is that many people believe that single mothers are teenage girls on welfare – young women who will go on to have several children, perhaps to several different fathers.

The story notes that the reality of the situation is vastly different. Less than 3 per cent of Australian single mums are teenagers, with almost 70 per cent aged 30 and over.

And, increasingly, it is older career women with independent lives who are taking on the challenges of motherhood.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in seven babies is now born to a woman not living with a partner and 28 per cent of children are born to unmarried mothers.

And while the "teenager on the make" myth still prevails, many kids growing up in single-parent homes are with mothers who are divorced, most of whom will also work outside the home.

"Some people just haven't caught up with how families have changed," says Melissa, a magazine publisher who has raised nine-year-old son Daniel alone since he was born.

The accomplished 29-year-old is financially and practically comfortable, she says, managing to run a busy career and a close, loving home, while still finding time to complete an MBA by correspondence, go to the gym and play basketball.

"I find it's a sympathy thing with some people – it's like, 'Oh, you poor thing. How do you cope?"' she says. "But I think I have a good life."

Single mothers have a lot of public pressure to cope with, says Interrelate spokesman and counsellor Philip Dart. He says that sole parents often feel they have to perform better than two-parent families, and they can find it hard to meet people on a social level.

Practical Parenting editor Sheryn George, who is married with a baby, says an increasing number of women are choosing to have children alone.

"The myth is that single parenthood is terrible because you will be stressed and poor, but we are in an age where women have the financial capacity and independence to make the choice to go it alone," she says.


Friday, December 10, 1999

Same-sex couples may get "nearest relative" status in Scotland; housing rights to follow

A story published today in the London Telegraph reports that same-sex couples could be given the same tenant survivor rights as heterosexuals now have in Scotland, following a decision yesterday to award them identical privileges when caring for incapacitated adults.

A provision to extend the rights of homosexuals to include tenancy could be included in the Scottish Executive's forthcoming Housing Bill. Jim Wallace, the justice minister, said that a clause to alter the rights of homosexuals looking after physically or mentally handicapped partners to bring them into line with heterosexuals would be inserted into the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Bill currently going through Parliament.

It will allow same-sex partners to be legally treated as the "nearest relative" for the first time. Now ministers are studying proposals to extend that to tenancy rights. Currently gay partners have no rights to take on a tenancy if their partner leaves or dies and can be evicted.

The Adults with Incapacity Bill will be fully implemented by April 2002, with up to half of the changes made by April 2001. The Housing Bill is expected to be published late next year.


Wednesday, December 08, 1999

Rate of divorces and marriages continuing to drop in Britain

A story published today in the Belfast Telegraph reports that the divorce rate in England and Wales is continuing to fall, according to government figures just released.

There were 145,200 in England and Wales in 1998 compared with 146,700 in 1997, and 158,700 in 1991, said the winter issue of Population Trends, published by the Office for National Statistics.

The rate was 12.9 per 1,000 married people in 1998, the lowest rate since 1990, the figures showed.

The story says that the average (mean) age at divorce keeps rising. In 1998 it was 40.4 years for men, and 37.9 years for women compared with 39.7 and 37.2 respectively in 1997. This reflects the increases in recent years in the average age of people when they marry.

About 71% of all divorces were between couples where the marriage had been the first for both parties, the same as in 1997, compared with 82% in 1981. Nearly one out of every five men and women divorcing in 1998 had been divorced before, compared with only one in 10 in 1981.

More British women without a spouse or live-in partner are giving birth

An article published today in the Guardian reports that Britain has the highest rate of women in western Europe who bring up children without a spouse or a live-in partner. The story is based on a research report released yesterday.

The study of European birth trends also shows that couples who marry before having a child are consistently more likely to stay together than those who have a baby while cohabiting.

The story predicts these findings will be seized on by campaigners for traditional family values, since the release of this new study comes only a week after the importance of marriage was played down at the launch of the government-funded National Family and Parenting Institute.

An opinion poll commissioned by the institute, suggested that only one in five adults in Britain consider marriage a very important factor in bringing up children.

Jack Straw, the home secretary, said the idea of a golden age of marriage had been exaggerated.

According to the story, the latest official figures show that, in 1998, 38% of births in England and Wales were outside marriage, compared with 26% 10 years earlier, although more than 60% were registered by both parents giving the same address.

The new European study, carried out by population expert Kathleen Kiernan, of the London School of Economics, found a similar trend in most countries, with women increasingly having children outside marriage. The report reveals that France is on the brink of joining Scandinavian states in having a majority of babies born outside marriage.

However, the research discovered that Britain is the only country where this trend has led to a "striking" increase in numbers of women having a child without a live-in partner as well as a rise in numbers having a child within a cohabiting relationship.

The story notes that among women aged 25-29, 15% of British women having a first child were found to doing so without a partner. Equivalent proportions were 9% in France and 6% in Sweden. By contrast, 46% of first births to French women were to those cohabiting, as were 53% in Sweden, compared to 17% in Britain.

Professor Kiernan found 92% of British couples who married before having a first child were together five years later. However, only 48% of British couples who were cohabiting when they had a first child were still together five years later. This was lower than in most other countries.

The study, published in Population Trends, the quarterly journal of the office for national statistics, comes as the number of marriages is continuing to fall and experts are projecting that the proportion of the adult population that is married will fall below half for the first time in history in the middle of the next decade.

The article says the number of marriages in England and Wales dropped to 273,000 in 1997, compared to 352,000 in 1987. But the number of divorces is also falling and the divorce rate, which is a more significant indicator, came down in 1998 to its lowest level since 1990.


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