Britain’s married minority
Married couples have officially become a minority in the UK after the number of people choosing not to tie the knot surged by 3.6 million in just 10 years, final results from the census show.
New figures bringing together comprehensive 2011 census results from all four countries of the UK for the first time lay bare a decade of dramatic social change.
Amid the fastest population growth for more than 200 years, fuelled by mass immigration and a baby boom, the proportion of people old enough to marry who have actually tied the knot slipped from 51 per cent to just under 47 per cent.
In evidence of the impact of the so-called “Bridget Jones generation”, the number of single Britons has increased by a quarter while the number of divorcees is up by a fifth.
There are also one million more pensioners than there were a decade ago and 600,000 more full time unpaid carers.
One in six Britons are now over 65, a group growing more than twice the rate of the rest of the population.
The figures also underline the scale of immigration during the decade which saw the enlargement of the EU, helping drive an unprecedented 4.1 million increase in the British population to 63.2 million.
The number of foreign-born residents of the UK rose by almost two thirds between 2001 and 2011, from 4.9 million to 8 million – now accounting for 13 per cent of the population.
The make-up of Britain’s minorities has also changed beyond recognition: with the number of Polish-born people living in the UK increasing tenfold in a decade.
Yet the census exposes wide variations in the make-up of Britain. Four in 10 Londoners are from an ethnic minority while in Northern Ireland non-white people account for only two per cent.
And it gives a glimpse of lifestyles have changed even more than the population. Despite the impact of environmentalism and a renaissance in cycling, the number of family cars on British roads are increasing twice as fast as the human population.
Changing working patterns, attitudes to matters such as cohabiting and couples choosing to marry later in life marriage have driven a surge in the number of people classing themselves as single.
They now account for 17.8 million people – more than a third of the population.
At the same time the number of divorcees also jumped by a fifth to 4.5 million while the numbers of separated people who are not officially divorced also increased b a similar proportion. Same-sex civil partnerships, which did not even exist a decade earlier, accounted for around 113,000 people in 2011 census.
Yet, in a vivid illustration of the impact of the impact of improvements in medical care, the number of widows in Britain fell by more than 300,000 – in evidence hat men are finally closing the gap on women in life expectancy.
Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation think-tank said that the figures masked the enduring popularity of marriage as the basis for bringing up children.
But he said it was undeniable that marriage is no longer as popular as it was.
“The fact is that the trend away from marriage is so strongly associated with increased family breakdown,” he said.
“It is a major concern that fewer people are getting married.
“Being an unmarried parent puts you at much greater risk of then becoming a lone parent.
“But the reality is that almost all couples who stay together while bringing up children get married at some stage.”