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In UK, marriage rates lowest since 1862

world Updated: Mar 28, 2008 01:00 IST
Vijay Dutt

Marriage rates in Britain have fallen to the lowest level since records began in 1862, the Office for National Statistics said.

Provisional marriage figures for 2006 show that 23 out of 1,000 unmarried men were choosing to marry — down from 25 men per 1,000 the previous year. The marriage rate for women fell from 22 to 21 per thousand for the period.

The number of marriages has been in decline. In 2006 there were 237,000 — the lowest annual number since 1895.

The family campaigners are accusing ruling Labour party and say it is “killing marriage off”. Couples are also now marrying at an average of almost five years later.

It is only the Indians and other Asian families are keeping the tradition alive and helping the rate from falling even lower.

While the number of single, divorced or widowed people rose in 2006, those choosing to marry fell, producing the lowest marriage rates since 1862.

Figures by the Office for National Statistics show the average age for all marriages has risen by almost five years for men since 1991, to 36.4 years, and just over 4.5 years for women, to 33.5. The average age at first marriage is now 31.8 years for men, and 29.7 years for women.

The figures led campaigners to blame politicians for failing to safeguard the institution of marriage.

Civitas, the think-tank, said marriage could soon become a minority household format for those with children. “We are seeing a great increase in cohabitation and serial partnerships,” said Robert Whelan, its deputy director. “Marriage is regarded as too much of a hot potato by politicians who fear that by talking about it they will be seen as discriminating against single people, so I’m not looking for a solution from Westminster any time soon.”

Kirby, director of the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, said the lack of practical financial support for marriage, and the removal of the terms “marriage” and “spouse” from many official documents, meant the Government was “effectively overseeing the death of marriage by killing it off”.

Recent research by the Christian campaigning charity CARE found that three out of four ordinary families would be better off living apart than sharing a home under Labour’s benefits system.

Campaigners blame a “me” society, big divorce settlements in favour of women, and the fact that many young couples have witnessed the fall-out of parental divorce.