Marriages and births in Bulgaria
Marriages, divorces and births in Bulgaria at the beginning of the 21st century
- Author: National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria
- Data extracted in November 2015.
This article on marriages and births is part of a pilot project implemented by Eurostat together with the Member States. The aim of the pilot project is to better reply to user's needs by complementing the Eurostat article presenting data on an EU level with more detailed information on the same topic, but at national level. Articles from the participating Member States are available in the corresponding national languages as well as in English and they form, together with the Eurostat article, an online publication.
In Bulgaria as in many of the EU Member States, the family as a legal union has, for many people, lost its meaning. The number of marriages is declining, while the number of consensual unions is growing. As a result, the birth of a first child often precedes marriage. The mean age at marriage has increased both for men and women. There is a considerable growth in the number of extra-marital births. Fertility is also changing. The mean age at first birth has increased, which leads to a shortening of the period in which a subsequent birth is possible. The highest crude birth rates over the last 40 years were registered in the period 1974 - 1977, and the lowest in 1997. There was an increase of 1.5 % in the number of live births in 2014 compared with the previous year.
On the other hand, in contrast to many European countries, the number of divorces in Bulgaria during the last 15 years has not increased.
Main statistical findings
Fewer marriages, older spouses
The number of marriages has decreased continuously since 1945 and the most considerable decrease is observed after 1990. In 1990 the number of marriages dropped below 60 thousand per year for the first time and the crude marriage rate was below 7.0 ‰. In 1991 the number of marriages decreased by over 11 thousand and the crude marriage rate fell to 5.6‰. Since then, the number of marriages has continued to decrease, although with some fluctuations in certain years. There were 24 596 marriages registered in Bulgaria in 2014, 2 653 more than in the previous year and the crude birth rate was 3.4 ‰.
In addition to the decrease in the number of marriages, a steady tendency of an increase in the mean age at marriage is observed both for men and women. In 2000 the mean age at marriage for men was 30.0 compared with 32.7 in 2014. The respective values for women were 26.4 and 29.4. Stated another way, people now marry 3 years later than 14 years ago.
The mean age at first marriage has also increased. In 2000 the mean age at which males first got married was 28.1. It increased by 2.5 years in 2014 to reach 30.6. The increase is even higher for females - from 24.7 to 27.5 or by 2.8 years.
Consensual unions - preferred choice
Evidence for the growing ‘unattractiveness’ of legal marriages is the distribution of population by juridical marital status. While in 2001, single persons (never married) were 64.6 % of people aged 20 - 29 years, in 2011 their share increased to 82.2 %. The increase in single persons aged 30 - 39 years is even higher - from 18.2 % to 42.1 % or 2.3 times in the period between the last two censuses.
At the same time, in the period between the two censuses, the share of people living in consensual unions, without legal marriage, increased considerably. In 2001, 4.7 % of the total population of Bulgaria was co-habiting, while in 2011 this share was 9.4 %. The largest increase is in people living in consensual unions aged 30 - 39 years (13.0 %), followed by those aged 20 - 29 years (6.4 %)
The number of divorces in Bulgaria has remained relatively constant over the years. In the period 2000 - 2014 about 10 thousand marriages were dissolved annually, with the highest number of divorces observed between 2004 and 2008 when over 14 thousand marriages were dissolved annually, a rate of 1.9 per 1 000 population. The peak in the number of divorces was registered in 2007 - over 16 thousand or 2.1‰ .
There were 10 584 divorces registered in 2014 or 324 fewer than in 2013. Out of the total number of divorces, 82 % were among the urban population. Highest was the share of divorces by ‘mutual agreement’ (62.6 %), followed by divorces due to ‘incompatibility of temperament’ (27.4 %) and ‘virtual parting’ (7.5 %). The average duration of a marriage before divorce in 2014 was 15.1 years.
The mean age at divorce for men and women has also increased. In 2000 the mean age of men at divorce was 38, while for women it was 34.8. The respective values in 2014 were 43.6 and 40.1.
Fewer and later born children
Since the end of the 1960s fertility in Bulgaria has decreased continuously. As a result of the measures introduced in the early 70s, aiming at an increase in fertility, a slight increase was registered in the period 1974 - 1977, but the effect was short-lived. From then a steady decrease began, with the lowest number of live born children registered in the whole demographic history of the country in 1997 (64 125, or 7.7 ‰). The number of live births in 2014 was 67 585. Compared with the previous year, there was an increase of 1 007 children or 1.5 %.
The decrease in fertility is a result of several factors: among the leading ones are a decrease in the number of women of fertile age, as well as in their fertility. The number of women of fertile age as of 31.12.2014 was 1 580 thousand. Compared with the previous year it decreased by over 21 thousand and compared with 2000 by over 416 thousand.
Changes in the age structure of the fertile contingent contribute considerably to the decrease of the crude birth rate. It has to be taken into consideration that nearly 90 % of births are among women aged 15 to 34 years. They numbered 818 thousand in 2014, a decrease of 2.6 % compared with 2013 and of 28.6 % compared with 2000. The number of women in the this age group decreased mainly due to lower numbers of women entering fertile age and emigration processes.
In a 14-year period, the mean age of women at birth and at first birth increased by 3.2 years. In 2000 the mean age at birth was 24.9 compared with 28.1 in 2014, while the mean age at first birth increased from 23.5 to 26.7.
Total fertility rate (TFR) is one of the basic indicators characterising fertility. In the period 2000 - 2014 it remained almost unchanged, with the highest value registered in 2009 - 1.6 children per woman. The average number of live born children per women in 2014 was 1.5, compared with 1.3 in 2000.
First birth precedes marriage
Comparing the mean age of women at first birth and at first marriage, a tendency is observed for the birth of the first child to precede marriage.
The number and share of extra-marital births in Bulgaria increased considerably during the last 10 - 15 years. In 2000 the share of extra-marital births was 38.4 % of the total number of live births and it reached its highest value in 2013 - 59.1 %. Since 2006 the share of extra-marital births has permanently surpassed the share of births in marriage. For over 72 % of the extramarital births data on the fathers exists, i.e. most probably the children are growing up in families, with parents cohabiting without marrying. The share of extramarital births in rural areas is higher than in urban.