ISSN 2330-717X

Marriages And Divorces Tumble In Southeast, Central Europe In Pandemic


Couples became far less willing to ‘tie the knot’ – or untie it – during last year’s health crisis, official statistics from Southeastern and Central European countries show.

By Hamdi Firat Buyuk, Samir Kajosevic, Anja Vladisavljevic, Milica Stojanovic, Marcel Gascón Barberá, Claudia Ciobanu and Danijel Kovacevic

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted family life all over the world in many ways, including the number of people who want to get married – or divorced.

According to official figures from Southeast and Central European statistical agencies, the number of marriages dropped significantly in 2020 during the pandemic, presumably because of social distancing measures and strict bans on public gatherings in many countries.

Less immediately clear is why the number of people getting divorced in the region has also fallen markedly, as divorce is not a social event.

“The number of people who got married was 542,314 in 2019 and 487,270 in 2020, a 10.1 per cent decrease [on the year before],” Turkey’s statistical agency, TurkStat, said on February 25.

According to TurkStat, the number of divorces also dropped markedly over a year – by 13.8 per cent. “The number was 156,587 in 2019 while it was 135,022 in 2020,” the agency said.

A significant slowdown in marriages and divorces has also been seen in other countries in the region.

In tiny Montenegro, which is home to only 600,000 people, the number of marriages crashed during the pandemic by almost 50 per cent according to the Montenegrin Statistic Office. Last year there were 940 marriages in the country, well down from the 1,961 in 2019, it said.

According to the Montenegrin Statistic Office, the number of divorces did not change during the pandemic, however; 248 couples were divorced during both years.

According to Croatia’s Bureau of Statistics, provisional data for 2020 show that the health crisis had a significant impact on people’s willingness to wed. From March to May 2020, there were 71.4 per cent fewer marriages than in the same period of 2019, it said.

Data for all 12 months show that the total number of marriages in 2020 fell by 22.9 per cent compared to the same period in the previous year, with 4,972 less marriages.

The pandemic also reduced the number of divorces in Croatia. A total of 4,707 couples divorced last year, 1,129 less than in 2019.

In Serbia the last available data from November 2020 say there were 33 per cent fewer marriages and 30 per cent fewer divorces in the first 11 months of 2020 than in the same period of 2019.

In Romania, the number of marriages also fell sharply in 2020. That year, 14,929 couples got married in Romania, 8,115 fewer than in 2019.

On the other hand, unlike in the rest of the region, divorces swelled in Romania in 2020 compared to a few years before.

The National Institute of Statistics, INS, reported one divorce for every 2.7 marriages; back in 2017, the rate was one divorce per every 5.2 marriages. According to Romanian media, the increase in separations in the pandemic has led to an explosion of online ads seeking divorce lawyers.

According to the Main Statistics Office in Poland, Polish couples also shunned marriage in 2020. That year, 145,000 marriages took place in Poland, 38 per cent less than in 2019. There were also 51,000 divorce rulings issued, 14,000 less than in 2019.

In Bosnia, data for the whole year has not been published but the Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina says that in the first six months of 2020 there were far fewer marriages and divorced compared to the same period in 2019.

“During the first six months of 2020, 5,290 marriages were concluded in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which compared to the first six months of 2019 shows a decrease of 29.94 per cent,” it said.

“During the first six months of 2020, 892 couples were divorced, which is a decrease of 21.75 per cent compared to the same period in 2019,” the agency added.

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The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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