Malta with lowest divorce rate in Europe, one year since introduction

New EU demographic data shows 40% of children were born outside marriage in 2011 across 27-member state bloc.

Malta has the EU's lowest divorce rate, one year on since the introduction of divorce by popular referendum, with less than 1 divorce per 1,000 persons.

Malta also retained one of the highest marriages rates at 6.1 per 1,000 persons.

The marriage rate in the EU27 has decreased continuously over the last two decades, from 6.3 marriages per 1000 persons in 1990 to 5.2‰ in 2000 and 4.4‰ in 2010. This pattern could be found in a majority of Member States. In 2011, the highest marriage rates were recorded in Cyprus (7.3 marriages per 1000 persons), Lithuania (6.3‰) and Malta (6.1‰), and the lowest in Bulgaria (2.9‰), Slovenia (3.2‰), Luxembourg (3.3‰), Spain, Italy and Portugal (all 3.4‰).

Over the same period, the divorce rate in the EU27 has increased slightly. In 1990, there were 1.6 divorces per 1000 persons in the EU27, while the rate was 1.8‰ in 2000 and 1.9‰ in 2009. In a majority of Member States, the divorce rate also grew over the last two decades. In 2011, the highest divorce rates were found in Latvia (4.0 divorces per 1000 persons) and Lithuania (3.4‰), while there was less than one divorce per 1000 persons in Malta3 (0.1‰), Ireland (0.7‰) and Italy (0.9‰).

New data released by Eurotsat puts the EU27 population at an estimated 503.7 million, a growth of 6% compared to 1992, but the share of those aged 65 years or older in the population increased from 14% to 18%.

As well as the population age structure, family structures are also changing, influenced by fewer marriages, more divorces and an increasing share of children born outside marriage.

The decreasing trend in the number of marriages is also reflected in an increase of children born outside marriage. In 1990, 17% of all live births in the EU27 were outside marriage, compared with 27% in 2000 and 40% in 2011. Over this period, the share of live births outside marriage increased in all Member States.

There were considerable differences in the share of live births outside marriage across the Member States. In 1990, almost half of live births were outside marriage in Sweden and Denmark, while it was 2% or less in Cyprus, Malta and Greece. In 2011, the highest shares were registered in Estonia (60%), Slovenia (57%), Bulgaria and France (both 56%), and the lowest in Greece (7%), Cyprus (17%) and Poland (21%).

The young age dependency ratio - which shows the level of support that under-15 and over-64 population needs from the 15-64 working population - fell from 28.5% in 1992 to 23.4% in 2012. During this period, the ratio fell in all member states, except Denmark (+2 percentage points). In 2012, the young age dependency ratio ranged from 20% in Bulgaria and Germany to 33% in Ireland and 29% in France.

The old age dependency ratio in the EU27 increased from 21.1% in 1992 to 26.8% to 2012. During this period, the ratio rose in all Member States, except Ireland (-0.4 pp). In 2012, the old age dependency ratio ranged from 18% in Slovakia, Ireland and Cyprus to 32% in Italy and 31% in Germany.

As a result, the total age dependency ratio in the EU27 grew slightly over the last two decades, from 49.5% in 1992 to 50.2% in 2012, meaning there are around two persons of working age for each dependent person. In the Member States, the total age dependency ratio in 2012 ranged from 39% in Slovakia to 56% in France and 55% in Sweden.

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