Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Much is made by the Tories about how they support marriage, and abhor family breakdown, all of which is accompanied by much shaking of heads at the supposed situation under Labour, and with the prescription that tax rebates should do the trick to keep couples together.

The Labour government famously doesn't prescribe relationships, preferring to leave it to individuals as to whether they should marry, divorce, stay single or co-habit, and tries to treat everyone the same.

So what has happened to divorce under Labour? The above graph shows divorces in England and Wales since 1961. Two things leap out - the rise that takes place after the Divorce Reform Act 1969, which comes into effect in 1971, and that divorces were higher under the Thatcher-Major government than under New Labour.

The Office of National Statistics reports that:

Between 2004 and 2005, the number of divorces granted in the UK decreased by 7 per cent to 155,052, from 167,138. This is the lowest number of divorces since 2000, and the first annual decrease since 1999/2000. This is 14 per cent lower than the highest number of divorces which peaked in 1993 (180,018). The number of divorces in England and Wales (141,750), Scotland (10,940) and Northern Ireland (2,362) have all fallen in 2005 by 8 per cent, 3 per cent and 6 per cent respectively. and that Divorce rates for men and women under 40 have fallen most steeply: by 13 per cent and 12 per cent respectively in 2005. For men aged under 40 the divorce rate of 24.9 divorcing men per 1,000 married men aged 16 to 39 is the lowest since 1988

Interesting, no? I don't think it's a coincidence that the all time high for divorce was in 1993 - a combination of recession, financial stress and negative equity probably put unbearable strains on people's marriages.

Marriage rates are also rising: there were 270,700 marriages in England and Wales in 2004, which is a rise of 590 from the figures in 2003, and 15,100 greater than 2002.

Letting people get on with their lives while providing economic stability seems to be a successful formula.


Glass House said...

well said.

I'm totally nicking this story for my blog.

Anonymous said...

Let's not argue and bicker about Labour v Tories.

The simple fact is that the way our tax and benefits systems have developed over the last quarter of a century is that a single mother and an unofficial live in boyfriend get more benefits and/or pay less tax than a co-habiting married couple.

The Tories of course introduced independent taxation, which is as much to blame.

Anonymous said...

Did you post this before or after your related comment on LabourHome under the topic of illiteracy being the main cause of crime?

In my previous post, I meant to say "cohabiting OR married" by which married includes "civil partnerships" which I consider to be equivalent to married.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mark and also think there is no relation shown to population growth, i.e. marriages may be up but not as much as the population, people may proportionally cohabit more than marry, and drop out of the statistics as far as break-ups are concerned.

snowflake5 said...

anonymous - the overall population may have risen due to longevity and lower mortality, but the cohorts in their twenties and thirties (the groups mainly involved in first marriage) are much smaller than age groups in their forties, fifties and sixties by a long way. (generation X is half the size of the baby boomers). Therefore the increase in marriages is significant, as the numbers marrying are keeping up with historical numbers and rising, even though the size of the generation has dropped.

As for divorce, unemployment and losing your business or home, puts unbearable strain on couples and it's no accident that during the Thatcher-Major years, with their historically high unemployment, the divorce rate is also historically high. Thankfully the Tories are not in power anymore! ;-)