Our analysis of new data from Eurostat shows that marriage rates fell in every European country during 2020, the first year of lockdown, except one. In Hungary, marriages rose by 3%.
- On average, there were 12-16% fewer marriages in the northern European countries of Scandinavia and the Baltic, 23% fewer in Western Europe, 24% fewer in Eastern Europe, and 42% fewer in the Mediterranean countries of Southern Europe.
- Hungary now has the highest marriage rates in Europe, the result of a decade of family friendly policies aimed primarily at encouraging an increase in fertility. Although policies support all family types, some have specific advantages for couples who are married. For example, certain subsidised government loans can be deferred or waived entirely for those who have up to three children, but only if the parents are married.
- Marriage rates in Hungary have now risen by 92% between 2010 and 2020, taking their ranking from 28th in Europe to 1st. This contrasts sharply with the rest of Europe, where marriage rates have fallen in every country except the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia. The biggest falls have been in Ireland, Italy and Portugal where marriage rates have fallen by more than half, which includes the falls due to lockdown.
- Marriage rates in the UK fell by 16% between 2010 and 2019, taking their ranking from 17th in Europe to 25th. UK figures are not yet available for 2020. However, based on typical falls across Western Europe, I would expect a further drop in marriages of 20-25%.
- There will of course be something of a rebound in marriages across Europe in 2021 and 2022 as government restrictions have relaxed.
- However politicians of all parties should be deeply concerned at these figures. Married families are typically more stable, pay more tax, and require fewer benefits. Fewer marriages therefore means more family breakdown, less tax and higher welfare bills.
- We need to talk about Hungary.