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Marriage Falling Out Of Favour

The number of marriages in 2019 dropped to its lowest level since 1960, Stats NZ said today.

“Last year, 19,071 couples resident in New Zealand celebrated their marriage or civil union,” population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said.

“This is down from 20,949 in 2018, and from 27,201 at its peak in 1971.”

Seventy-two percent of marriages in 2019 were first marriages for both partners. This is a similar proportion to the last few decades, but lower than before 1980.

“While the number of marriages has been around 20,000 over the last few decades, the New Zealand population is increasing, meaning declining marriage rates,” Mr Islam said.

The general marriage rate dropped to a record low in 2019. Only 10 couples per 1,000 people eligible to marry (unmarried people aged 16 years and over) did so last year. This is less than half of the rate of 30 years ago and follows a general decline since the peak in 1971.

To allow for international comparisons, the crude marriage rate is used. It shows the number of marriages and civil unions per 1,000 people of all ages. It was also at a record low in 2019, at 4 marriages per 1,000 people, down from 7 per 1,000 in 1989. Similar drops have been seen in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States (source: OECD.Stat, Family database by country – The structure of families).

While we are seeing a drop in the number of marriages in New Zealand, people are still becoming partners.

2018 Census totals by topic

indicated that 61 percent of the adult population was either married or in a de facto relationship. This is similar to the 60 percent of adults who were partnered in the 1986 Census.

Provisional data also released today includes marriages for the March 2020 quarter. Although marriages over this period follow the downwards trends, there does not appear to be a significant drop in marriages as a result of COVID-19. Provisional data for marriages registered in the June 2020 quarter will be released in early August.

More divorces in 2019, but general trend downwards

There was a small increase in the number of couples granted a divorce in 2019. There were 8,388 divorces, up from an average of 8,075 over the previous five years. However, the divorce rate in 2019, of 8.6 divorces per 1,000 estimated marriages, was the same as the average of the previous five years.

Divorces are generally trending downwards. Two decades ago, the divorce rate was 12.2 (with 9,699 divorces), and in 1981, when it peaked, the divorce rate was 17.1 (with 12,396 divorces). This peak in divorces followed legislative changes to make getting a divorce simpler (see

Family Proceedings Act 1980


The chance of a marriage ending in divorce has also dropped. About 20 percent of marriages that occurred in the late 1990s divorced within 10 years, dropping to around 15 percent for marriages occurring in the late 2000s. Just over a third of marriages that occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s ended in divorce within 25 years of marriage.

© Scoop Media

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