The Times

Tuesday, June 15 1999

Divorce ends two out of four weddings

by Frances Gibb, Legal Correspondent
The Times

UNHAPPY couples in the United Kingdom have given the country one of the highest divorce rates in the world, with, statistically, almost half the marriages now taking place being destined to be legally ended, according to figures released yesterday.

No other country in Western Europe comes close to Britain's annual rate of 3.25 divorces for every 1,000 inhabitants, the sixth biggest globally.

Only America and four former members of the old Soviet Union - Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Estonia - are ranked higher in the divorce league table.

But while the American rate of divorce - at 4.5 for every 1,000 inhabitants - is falling, Britain's is following an upward trend. America also has the highest marriage rate in the world - 8.7 weddings for every 1,000 inhabitants. Britain's marriage rate - at 6.6 per 1,000 inhabitants - is the highest in the European Union and second highest in all of Europe, behind Belarus. But it is outside the world top ten, being exceeded by several South American and Asian nations.

The figures were compiled internationally by Euromonitor as part of its World Marketing Data & Statistics (1999) CD-Rom. Countries with the lowest divorce rates include Italy, with 0.6 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants each year, and Colombia, with 0.13 per 1,000.

Both countries have particularly strong Roman Catholic cultures where divorce may be legal but is not recognised by the Church, so is far rarer. In Britain and America there are criticisms that marriage is entered into with too little commitment; and that divorce is not difficult.

Divorce reforms, which are awaiting implementation, would make it harder in some respects, lengthening the time it takes and requiring couples first to reach agreement on custody of their children and their finances.

Britain's annual divorce rate has risen from 2.45 to 3.25 for every 1,000 people over the past two decades. In the United States it fell from 4.95 to the present 4.5.

The odds in some other countries, however, of a newly married couple staying together until death parts them is less than evens. In Sweden, for example, 3.8 inhabitants per 1,000 marry each year - and 2.56 per 1,000 divorce.
Figures from Euromonitor's World Marketing Data & Statistics 1999 CD-Rom

Copyright 1999, Times Newspapers Ltd.