The poor state of marriage across the EU

Ireland had one of the lowest marriage rates in Europe in 2020, according to new data from Eurostat. This was the year Covid emerged, so marriage rates dropped everywhere, but Ireland was particularly bad, and the rate was already low.

Figures from Eurostat show that Ireland had a marriage rate of 1.9 per 1,000 people in 2020. It was 4.1 in the previous year. Only Italy (1.6) and Portugal (1.8) had a lower rate but they have an older population. Again, these particularly dismal rates are because of Covid, but the trends have been down in any case.

About 1.4 million marriages took place in the EU in 2020, which is equivalent to 3.2 marriages per 1,000 population. As we can see, Ireland’s 1.9 per thousand was very low even in the context of the pandemic, but then we also had particularly long lockdowns.

The highest marriage rates in the EU in 2020 were reported in Hungary (6.9), Latvia (5.6) and Lithuania (5.5). Hungary was the only country in Europe that celebrated more marriages during the pandemic than before. Except for Latvia, Hungary was also the only country with marriage rates higher than ten years before.

Marriage rates have constantly declined in the last decades in Europe, from 7.8 in 1970 to 5.2 in 2000, and then a further drop to 4.3 in 2019, just before Covid.

In Ireland, the marriage rate is often slightly below the already low EU average. (7.0 in 1970, 5.0 in 2000).

In the early 2010s, Irish rates were slightly above the EU average, and after that, more or less in line with it.

According to the Eurostat data, in 2020 about 800,000 divorces took place in EU countries, the equivalent of 1.6 divorces every 1,000 people. The lowest rates were registered in Malta (0.5) and Slovenia (0.8) while the highest figures were in Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark (all at 2.7).

The divorce rate for Ireland has always been lower than the EU average. The 2020 figures for Ireland were not available at the time of the Eurostat data publication but we know that there was an increase in the number of applications that year.

We often hear that marriage in Ireland is in good health, compared internationally, but the latest Eurostat figures prove that this is definitively not the case.