Marriage and divorce continue downward trend

The marriage rate for New Zealand residents in 2018 was the lowest since the peak in 1971, continuing a long downward trend, Stats NZ says today.

The general marriage rate in 2018 fell slightly to 10.8 couples marrying per 1000 people eligible to marry (or form a civil union).

This is less than half the rate in 1988 and follows a general decline since the peak in 1971 when the marriage rate was 45.5 per 1,000.

The number of New Zealand-resident marriages and civil unions was 20,949 in 2018, very similar to the annual average over the last 20 years. In contrast, marriages and civil unions in New Zealand for overseas residents have generally increased over the same period (3,120 in 2018 compared with 1,068 in 1998).

“Marriage numbers have been steady, but a rising population means the general marriage rate continues to fall,” says population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers.

“Marriage and divorce are far less common than in the past.”

The divorce rate fell in 2018 to 7.7 divorces for every 1000 estimated existing marriages and civil unions, the lowest rate since 1977. The current decline continues the general decrease in the divorce rate since 2004. In 2018 the rate was 40 per cent lower than in 2004 when it was 12.8 per 1,000.

The number of divorces in New Zealand dropped to 7,455 in 2018, the first time below 8,000 since 1980. A law change in 1981 saw an initial sharp increase in divorces in the early 1980s.

The decreasing divorce rate coincides with a decrease in the number of children whose parents divorced. In 2018, 5598 children under 17 years had parents who were granted a divorce, down from 9429 children in 1998.

Five years of same-sex marriages in New Zealand

It has been just over five years since same-sex marriages were first celebrated in New Zealand in August 2013.

There were 4,872 same-sex marriages between August 2013 and December 2018. This number includes a similar number of New Zealand-resident marriages (2,568), and overseas-resident marriages (2,307) registered in New Zealand.

Over the last five years, the average number of same-sex marriages was around 900 a year, 3.5 percent of the average total marriages (23,335) over this time.

The number of same-sex marriages registered in New Zealand to overseas residents decreased, coinciding with the introduction of same-sex marriages in Australia from December 2017. In 2018, 375 same-sex marriages were registered in New Zealand to overseas residents, down from the peak of 495 in 2017.

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