Are Filipino millennials more hopeful about marriage than their Asian counterparts?

While the number of marriages in South Korea and Japan is declining, it’s rising in the Philippines.

A December 2023 government report shows there was a 25.9 percent increase in the total registered marriages in 2022 compared with data from 2021, with the median age between 28 and 30. 

South Korea’s alarming decline in marriage rates recently made headlines. According to Statistics Korea, the number of marriages in 2023 fell by 40 percent compared to the level recorded a decade ago. 

Some Asian countries like South Korea and Japan have reported an “alarming” decline in marriages. Photo by Engin Akyurt for Unsplash. Header Photo by Azra Tuba Demir/Pexels.

An estimated 193,673 couples tied the knot last year, a drop of 40 percent compared to the 322,807 couples who got married in 2013.

The same marriage drought is being experienced in Japan, where the number of Japanese couples who tied the knot in 2023 was reported to have fallen below 500,000 for the first time in 90 years. 

Things, however, are different here at home, where marriage is on the rise, specifically among millennials.

It compels one to ask: Are Filipino millennials more hopeful about marriage than our Asian counterparts?

Marriage on the rise

In 2022, marriages in the Philippines had a 25.9 percent increase from 2021.  Photo by Foto Pettine for Unsplash

According to data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in December 2023, a total of 449,428 marriages were registered in the country in 2022, marking a 25.9 percent increase from the total registered marriages of 356,839 in 2021. 

It added that compared with data before the pandemic, an increase of 4.0 percent was observed from 2019 to 2022.

The bulk of the registered marriages consisted of millennials, with the median age of marriage at 28 years old for women and 30 years old for men, which were one year older than last year (29 for males and 27 for females).

So yes, the numbers have spoken. More Filipinos have tied the knot in recent years and most of them are millennials.

Putting on the brakes

According to the Commission on Population and Development, more Filipinos are choosing to delay marriage.  

Despite the hard numbers showing that more Filipinos have recently exchanged “I do’s,” the Commission on Population and Development said that more are putting on the brakes until the day they say “I do.” 

According to POPCOM executive director Lisa Grace Bersales, more Filipinos are opting to delay marriage and having children for at least three years to prioritize their careers.

Unlike some of our Asian neighbors, however, Bersales gave the assurance that the current trend of Filipinos choosing to marry and having children at a later age is “not yet worrisome.”

Even if the national fertility rate is declining, she explained that the Philippines is far from having an “inverted pyramid population,” where the proportion of the elderly is higher than the younger population.

She added that the working age still accounts for 60 percent of the country’s population, while 30 percent are young dependents.

Unlike the Koreans and Japanese, moreover, many Filipinos still consider having children and families of their own, Bersales said.

Changing views on marriage

Filipinos’ perspectives on marriage have changed over the years. Photo by Zoriana Stakhniv
for Unsplash

Whether you choose to tie the knot or not, one thing is for sure: people’s perspectives on marriage have changed over the years, especially among millennials and Gen Zs. 

Data from the Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey, for instance, show that the proportion of Filipino women aged 15 to 49 who are legally married dropped from 54 percent in 1993 to 42 percent in 2017. 

Meanwhile, couples who are living together more than tripled, from 5 percent to 18 percent. 

The increase in the percentage of Filipino women who are cohabiting is more prominent in the younger age groups, particularly those in their 20s.

Interestingly, the increase in cohabitation is higher among Filipino women with “low levels of education” according to a study by the Asia Research Institute. The choice to cohabitate or “mag-live in” is usually because of economic constraints. 

This further verifies the observations in other developing countries that cohabitation is the “poor man’s marriage.”

At the end of the day, should you choose to marry, may it be for the right reasons and with the right person. Banner photo by Brooke Cagle for Unsplash

Other reasons commonly cited for choosing to cohabitate over formal marriage include conforming to societal norms, being “too young” to formally marry, unplanned pregnancy, inability to obtain consent from parents, and trial marriage.

The shifting perspectives on marriage in the Philippines is also accompanied by changes in attitudes toward marriage and cohabitation. According to data from an International Social Survey Program (ISSP) survey, the proportion of Filipinos who believe that “people who want to have children ought to get married” remained unchanged at 83 percent in 1994 and 2012.

On the other hand, the proportion who agreed that “it is better to have a bad marriage than no marriage at all” declined from 32 percent in 1994 to 27 percent in 2002.

The decrease could mean that although most Filipinos still value marriage, seeing it as the legitimate way for lifelong commitment and procreation, a sizable proportion would rather not marry than endure a bad marriage. 

This is a significant change in the older perspective that couples should stay together for the sake of their kids even if the marriage is already crumbling.

Add to this is the Philippines being the last country in the world, save for the Vatican, where divorce is not a legal option—discouraging many to take their relationship to the altar.

Associate Editor

The new lifestyle.