Marriage census tells it all
For the first time since records began, fewer than half the people of marriageable age in England and Wales are married and living together.
Figures released in December 2012 from the findings of the 2011 census show that only 46.6 per cent of over-16s are currently married and living together, compared with 50.9 per cent at the 2001 census.
The extent of increasing family breakdown is demonstrated by the 2011 census finding that nearly 1.2 million people (2.6 per cent) are separated, and more than four million people (9 per cent) are divorced without having remarried.
The number of separated people has increased by 210,000 and the number of divorcees who have not remarried by nearly 700,000, in the 10 years since the 2001 census.
Family breakdown is in fact greater than these figures indicate, since remarriages are now calculated in with first marriages, and the number of remarriages following past breakdowns is no longer measurable from the statistics.
In 2001, when the figures were shown separately, the number of remarried people totalled more than three million (7.4 per cent), while 18 million people (43.6 per cent) were still married to and living with their first spouse.
Between 2001 and 2011 the following also occurred: the number of cohabiting households increased by half a million to 2,298,000 — 10 per cent of all households; the number of lone parent families increased by more than 400,000 to 2,488,000 — 11 per cent of all households; the number of people living alone increased by half a million, and 30 per cent of all households consist of people living alone.
There has been a 300,000 decline in the number of widows and widowers, which may indicate that more widows and widowers are remarrying than previously.
In Northern Ireland, the 6.2 per cent proportion of cohabiting households is much smaller than the 10 per cent of households recorded in England and Wales. Ulster also has a slightly higher proportion of single, married and separated people, and a significantly lower proportion of divorcees.
A new statistic in the 2011 census is the number of civil partnerships contracted by same-sex couples. This status was introduced in December 2005.
The 2011 census records the number of people in a civil partnership as 104,942. This compares with a total of 21,196,684 people currently married and living together. This means that more than five years after civil partnerships were introduced, for every couple in a civil partnership, there are still 202 couples in a marriage.
In some parts of the country the difference is even more pronounced. In the West Midlands, for instance, there are 296 married couples for every one couple in a civil partnership.
The reason for this is that a disproportionate number of people in civil partnerships live in Greater London, which is home for only 14.4 per cent of the population of England and Wales, but for 26.1 per cent — more than one in four — of the country’s civil partnerships.
But even in London, described in the Independent in July 1996 as ‘the gay capital of Europe’, there were 95 current marriages at the 2011 census for every civil partnership.
What the civil partnership figures show is that since civil partnerships began, they have been taking place in England and Wales at the rate of 27 per day, or 191 a week.
Based on the annual figures for 2010, published separately by the Office of National Statistics, the frequency had dropped to 17 a day, or 118 a week, by 2010. Even in London, the rate since 2005 has only amounted on average to two partnerships every nine days in each of the 32 boroughs, or 81 a year per borough.
None of these statistics provides any kind of justification for a parliamentary bill which seeks to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Such a bill is flying in the face of the meaning, nature and history of marriage, and its universally esteemed place at the heart of the culture of family within human society.