Are financial issues the root of divorce rate in Malaysia?

by Darya Ebrahimi

Money issues have overtaken infidelity as the main reason for divorce, especially during the pandemic when financial problems were on rise. A portion of the population were left unemployed leading to the collapse of their marriages.

The increased living expenses and greater financial responsibilities associated with having a family are some of the primary causes of a greater rates of divorce in Malaysia, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from the National Registration Department's Marriage Tribunal, out of the 6,901 marriages that ended in divorce in 2018, 2,971 instances (or 43.1%) involved money issues in the home. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, continuing economic stress together with other factors like poor communication, a failure to settle disputes, strain from family obligations, and an elevated environment of confinement led to a 12% increase in divorce cases, from 50,862 cases in 2018 to 56,975 cases in 2019. (DOSM).

During the COVID-19 pandemic many were able to spend time listening to podcasts and learning more about the rights they’re entitled to. This time has been an eye-opener for many women especially. An additional rise in cases of divorce during the epidemic was attributed to lockdown limitations and physical separation policies. Perhaps it has been suggested that family bonds could be strengthened by allowing people to work or study from home. While more time is spent at home together, certain partners with opposing characteristics, such as one introvert and the other extrovert, will surely suffer conflict because of their disparate lifestyle beliefs. More frequently than before, they were compelled to participate in conversation and interaction with one another in a small area. Spouses were unable to engage in outdoor recreational activities like jogging, dining out with their extended relatives and friends, or travelling as they did before the pandemic.

Another problem is the absence of a forum or outlet for them to freely communicate their emotional issues. They were hence susceptible to being easily roused, irritated, or dissatisfied with one another. Disputes about child care, household chores, cooking, and buying groceries, as well as loss of employment or income decline, were some of the factors contributing to separation during the epidemic.Multiple studies revealed that during the COVID-19 epidemic, married couples' substantial share of childcare, housekeeping, cooking, and grocery shopping rose. This phenomena also applies to working parents, when women were expected to care for their families while still meeting their employers' expectations in a work-from-home (WFH) setting.

Policy suggestions 

  • The present administration should take into account the following policy recommendations from EMIR Research in an effort to further lower the divorce rate in Malaysia:

  • To help comprehend the issues that come from marriages at a juncture and on the verge of divorcing, work directly with therapists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that campaign for and encourage the building of the family system and familial connections;

  • In addition to highlighting the potential physical, social, psychological, and financial consequences of divorce, develop a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of marriage;

  • Motivate everyone in the family to cast aside schedules each week for family bonding (such as a Sunday family day).