3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 1998  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/08/1999   
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August 24, 1999
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
Marriage rate up - divorce rate down

There was a slight upward movement in the marriage rate in Australia in 1998 according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released today. At the same time the divorce rate declined.

The marriage rate trend has been in a long-term decline and the divorce rate in a long-term upward trend. However it is too early to say whether the 1998 changes will continue.

The crude marriage rate increased from 5.8 marriages per 1,000 population in 1997 to 5.9 per 1,000 in 1998. The marriage rate in Australia is lower than that in the United States of America (8.8 per 1,000 in 1996) and higher than in Canada and the United Kingdom (both 5.5 per 1,000 in 1995). In 1998, 110,600 marriages were registered in Australia.

Over the last 20 years the divorce rate has fluctuated, generally showing a slight upwards trend. The rate, 2.8 per 1,000 population in 1978, declined to 2.4 in 1987, rose to 2.9 in 1996, and declined in the following two years to reach 2.7 per 1,000 population in 1998. The divorce rate in Australia is lower than in the United States of America (4.3 in 1996) and about the same as in Canada and the United Kingdom (2.6 and 2.9 respectively in 1995). In 1998, 51,400 divorces were granted in Australia.

The incidence of people cohabiting prior to registered marriage has increased markedly over the past 20 years. Marriage data indicates that 67% of couples marrying in 1998 had cohabited prior to marriage. Comparative data from the Family Survey (1992) showed that only around 22% had lived together prior to marriage in 1978. The Northern Territory (80%) and Tasmania (75%) had the highest proportions of people who cohabited prior to marriage, while New South Wales and Victoria had the lowest (both 63%).

Over the past twenty years around one-third of all registered marriages celebrated in Australia involved at least one previously married partner. Remarriages represented 33% of all marriages in 1998 compared with 31% in 1978.

Over the last 10 years the number of children involved in divorce has increased. In 1988, 44,400 children aged under 18 years were involved in divorce. By 1998 this number had increased to 51,600 children. Ten years ago 97 children in 10,000 aged under 18 years were involved in divorces granted in that year. By 1998 this proportion had increased to 109 per 10,000.

After separation, children of all ages were more likely to live with their mother than their father. ABS Family Characteristics Survey (1997) data showed that 96% of 0-4 years olds, 89% of 5-11 years olds and 82% of 12-17 years olds whose parents had separated were living with their mother.

In 1998 there were 14.8 million people aged 15 years and over in the population, a rise of 16% on 1988 - 4.6 million were never married (up 22% on 1988), 8.3 million were married (up 9%), 930,000 were widowed (up 13%) and around 1 million were divorced (up 58%).

Full details are in Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 1998 (cat. no. 3310.0) available from ABS Bookshops. A summary of the publication is available on this site. The ABS encourages media organisations with online news services to link to the summary. Please phone us if you need assistance to do this.