The United Nations Demographics and Social Statistics Division (UNSD) keeps track of the ratio of marriages to divorces in each country, and the stats demonstrate that certain nationalities are significantly more likely to get divorced than others. The social acceptance of divorce, including various religious and cultural conventions, in a nation, may in part contribute to this, as indeed may the ease and expense with which a divorce may be carried out. While nations such as Colombia, Jamaica and Mexico all had comparatively low levels of divorce, some ostensibly traditional nations reported surprisingly high rates of divorce. We have taken a look at the nations where significantly more couples are getting divorced than staying together to see what it is that’s leaving so many marriages in pieces in these 10 countries.
- Belgium: 71%
A first glance, Belgium appears an example of European modernity: a nation with a rich history and splendid architecture which is the centre of power for the European Union and Parliament. Dig a little deeper, however, and you will realise that all is not well in the nation so famous for its chocolate. Politically, Belgium is fiercely divided between the French-speaking south, which includes the capital Brussels, and the Flemish-speaking north, close to Holland. The nation is so divided that successive elections have resulted in collapsed governments with Belgium going a record 535 days without a government as a result. Against this backdrop divorce levels have been climbing, with the decline of the Church cited as a key factor in these figures. Around 32,000 Belgians sign divorce papers every year.
- Portugal: 68%
Another unusual entry on our list is Portugal, like neighbouring Spain, is known for its traditionally Catholic heritage. However, the nation is not as tied to this background as you may think as divorce has been permitted in the country for over a century. When first introduced, divorce levels were low, numbering only a few hundred every year, but the figures have skyrocketed of late. At the same time, however, the marriage rates in the country remain high according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), suggesting that couples in Portugal remain firmly attached to marriage.
- Hungary: 67%
For a long time now Hungary has had an enormously high level of marriages ending in divorce. Hungarian courts grant a divorce either by mutual consent or if proof is given that the marriage has irrevocably broken down. Marriage rates are dropping here, and it has been noted by the OECD that the numbers of cohabiting unmarried couples remain low. Just under 10% of all Hungarian men are divorced, while 12.4% of women in the nation have been previously married.
- Czech Republic: 66%
The central European nation of the Czech Republic has one of the highest divorce rates in the world and at one time the highest in Europe. Around 11% of all men and 13% of women in the country are divorced and, as such, the practice is destigmatized. Well, over 90% of women in the country are granted full custody of their children in the aftermath of a divorce and the arguments of rights groups for fathers in these situations remain largely ignored.
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- Spain: 61%
As a nation that has historically been known for its close ties to the Catholic Church, it may be surprising to see how common divorce has become in the nation. Socially, Spain appears to be moving away from its religious heritage and since divorce was legalised in 1981, the figures for couples filing for it have been on the increase. The financial troubles the country has suffered in recent years have also been cited as another reason for marriages in the country breaking down.
- Luxembourg: 60%
One of the smallest nations in Europe, Luxembourg lies sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany, and has a population of just over half a million people. Luxembourg sees many travellers, expats and others pass through the country. Grounds for divorce in the country require that both parties are above the age of 21 and that they have been married for at least 2 years, although legal separations and annulments are also possible.
- Estonia: 58%
The next of our European nations to make the list, Estonia sees almost 6 in 10 marriages end in divorce. The nation is a former satellite state of the Soviet Union which has had legalised divorce for a long time, and as such it’s more or less accepted by society. It should be pointed out that unlike several other countries, Estonia does not offer any tax breaks to married couples, only those cohabiting, meaning that there is no legal or logistical incentive for couples to marry.
- Cuba: 56%
The country’s Communist form of government sees the State control a much broader range of services than many other nations. One such service is marriage and, as such, Cubans are entitled to apply to the government to have the costs of their wedding and honeymoon covered. With little to worry about other than actually finding a spouse, it is no wonder so many are getting married. This laissez-faire approach to the wedding goes hand in hand with a casual approach to the institution of marriage and a high divorce rate. A new trend that’s emerging in the island nation, however, is a lack of interest in marriage: many couples are making the decision to commit to one another without any ceremony or legal agreements.
- France: 55%
France is just the first of several European nations making the top 10, suggesting that while the continent may appear to the rest of the world at the centre of romance, the reality is far from it. Paris may be the city of love, but not everyone, it seems, is happy there and the city has the highest divorce rate in all of France. While French society may be accepting of divorce, the high proportion of marriages that end in the country does pose questions about the wellbeing and happiness of the nation. Rural regions have considerable lower levels of divorce than their urban counterparts, with the northern region of Brittany reporting the lowest divorce rate.
- USA: 53%
The United States is one of the world’s countries with the best-known statistics around marriage and divorce and the statistic that over half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce is well reported. Yet it is only number 10 on the list of the world’s most divorced nations, suggesting that all is not lost for the nation’s monogamists. With such a high population, however, there are still an awful lot of marriage break-ups happening 1 every 6 seconds, in fact.