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Archive:Marriages and births in Poland

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Decrease in the number of marriages and live births in Poland

Author: Joanna Stańczak, Karina Stelmach, Magdalena Urbanowicz (CSO of Poland)
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.

Marriage and family are strongly embedded in the value system of contemporary Poles. This article presents brief information about trends in the concluding and dissolving of marriages as well as births over the past 25 years, i.e. from the moment of economic and social transformation in 1989. The first half of the 90s was the breakthrough period for the observed demographic trends. The changes point to an ongoing transformation in the behaviour of young persons, who while entering adulthood and planning a future first invest in themselves - in education and work - and then in the family and its enlargement.

The article also provides information about the structure of the Polish population by de facto marital status.

Figure 1: Contracted marriages and crude marriage rate, in 1990, 1995, 2000-2013, Poland
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 2: Median age at first marriage (singles – never married) in 1990, 1995, 2000-2013, Poland
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 3: Number of divorce and crude divorce rate in 1990, 1995, 2000-2013, Poland
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 4: Live births in Poland 1946-2013 – increases and decreases
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 5: Total fertility rate and share of females aged 15-49 in Poland 1990-2013
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 6: Live births by age of mother (in %) in Poland 1990-2013
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 7: Median age of females at first marriage and median age of mother at birth of first child in Poland 1990 – 2013
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 8: Population aged 20 and more by de facto marital status in 2011, Poland
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 9: Population aged 20 and more by de facto marital status, sex and age in 2011, Poland
Source: CSO of Poland
Figure 10: Cohabitants (aged 20 and more) by sex, age and legal marital status in 2011 (in %), Poland
Source: CSO of Poland
Table 1: Population aged 20 and more by sex and de facto marital status in 2002 and 2011
Source: CSO of Poland

Main statistical findings

Decrease in the number of marriages in Poland

The number of marriages in Poland has been decreasing since 2008 - in 2013, there were over 180 thousand marriages, i.e. more than 23 thousand fewer than in the previous year and 77 thousand fewer than in 2008. The marriage rate was about 4.7‰, while it amounted to 6-6.8‰ in 2006-2010. The unfavourable trend in the number of marriages will probably have the effect of reducing the number of births in subsequent years.

During the period of transformation in Poland, there has been a significant increase in the age of persons entering into marriage. Men tend to get married before the age of 30 (in fact at the age of 29) and the median age of women is 27. At the beginning of the 90s over half of married men were below 25 years of age, compared with only 17 % in 2013. The share of women below 25 has decreased from 73 % to 34 % in 2013. In recent years, the age group who tends to get married most often was not as previously the age group 20-24, but those aged 25-29. The share of this group (both men and women) constitutes nearly 40 % (this was 28 % in 2000 and nearly 20 % in 1990).

Invariably, first marriages constitute about 82 % of all newly concluded marriages, i.e. those contracted by single (never married) persons. In 2013, the median age of single men was almost 28, i.e. over 4 years more than at the beginning of the 90’s (25 in 2000). The bride was 26 years old compared with 22 at the beginning of the 90s and slightly over 23 in 2000.

With the increase in the age of getting marriage, the structure of the educational level of the newly weds also changed. In 2013, a high educational level was dominant among brides – over 47 % had a high educational level in comparison to 15 % in 2000 and only 4 % in the 90s. Among men 40 % had secondary education; higher studies were completed by 33 % of grooms (compared with 5 % for the beginning of the 90s and 13 % in 2000).

The changes presented are examples of the transformations taking place in the behaviour of young people, who when planning a future firstly try to invest in themselves – in education and work – and then in the family.

Stable number of divorces

Over the past few decades in Poland, more than 200 thousand marriages have been dissolved every year - approx. 30 % as a result of divorce, and the remaining almost 70 % by death. In the 1990s and at the beginning of this century, the proportions were 20% to 80%.

In recent years about 65 thousand marriages have been dissolved yearly - in 2013 more than 66 thousand couples divorced – about 24 thousand more than in 1990. The divorce rate amounted to 1.7 ‰ vs. 1.1 ‰ in 1990. In 2013, 73 of each 10 thousand existing marriages were terminated through a court ruling in contrast to fewer than 50 in the 90s.

On average, divorced spouses have lived together for approx. 14 years and this period is getting slightly longer. Year by year spouses become a bit older when divorcing: in 2013 men were on average 40-41 years at the time of divorce, women were more than 2 years younger.

Constantly in over 2/3 of all cases, it was women who filed for a divorce. The divorce rate due to the woman’s fault was over 3 % (18 % of all divorces were due to the man's fault) but in the majority of cases (over 74 %) the fault was not adjudicated. The most common causes of divorces which spouses declare is incompatibility of character (over 1/3 of all divorces), the other causes are infidelity or permanent emotional relationship with another person (1/4 divorces) and alcoholism (19 %).

When deciding on custody of under-age children (aged below 18) remaining from the dissolved marriage, the court most often (60 % of cases in 2013) grants custody solely to the mother and solely to the father only in approx. 5 % of cases. In 34 % of cases joint custody is granted.

Decrease in number of live births

In Poland about 550 thousand children were born annually in the first years of the transformation (the crude birth rate was 10.2-10.6‰). Since 1992, the declining number of births - in 2013 nearly 370 thousand were registered (rate 9.6‰), i.e. over 16 thousand fewer than in the previous year and 9 thousand fewer than in 2000.

Currently, the number of births is almost half the size recorded in the last demographic boom i.e. in the first half of the 1980s (the crude rate was over 19‰).

The number of births – after the decrease which took place immediately after the baby-boom – started to grow in the mid-1990s. This was a natural consequence of numerous vintages of women born in the 70s and in the early 80s entering an age of high fertility. Then, a large decrease in the number of births was observed, which lasted until 2003 when 351 thousand children were born – the fewest in the whole post-war period. In 2004-2009 the number of births rose to almost 418 thousand and the growth was mainly due to the result of postponed births. An increase in the number and percentage of second and higher order births was also recorded. As a result there was a significant increase in the number of mothers aged 30-40 years. The next four years brought a decline in the number of births.

The low number of births has not guaranteed in Poland – for more than 20 years – a simple generation replacement. Since 1990 there has been a period of decrease in the number of births and the value of the fertility rate is below 2 (it was 1.99 in 1990) . In 2013, the total fertility rate (TFR) decreased to 1.29.

Increase of the age of women at childbirth

Beginning in the 1990s, the demographic transformations caused a shift of the highest female fertility from the age group 20-24 to the age group 25-29. They also caused a significant increase of the fertility rate for the age group 30-34, which – as mentioned earlier – is the result of postponed births.

The consequence of all these changes in behaviour (in particular, in the last 10 years) is an increase of the median age of women giving birth. In 2013 this was just over 29 – compared with 26 in 2000. During this period the median age of women giving birth to their first child also increased - from less than 24 in 2000 to just over 27 in 2013.

The observed changes are another result of a choice, which is often made by young generations of Poles, to reach a certain level of education and economic stability firstly and then (about the age of 30) to start and expand a family.

Over 20 % of births in Poland are births outside marriage

Female fertility is at a certain level influenced by the number of new marriages. Now days about 80 % of children are born into families created by legal marriages, while more than half of children of married couples are born within the first three years of marriage. Despite the periodic increase in the number of new marriages (in 1997-2000 and 2005-2008), the percentage of extra-marital births has been increasing over recent years. In 2000 the extra-marital birth share was about 12 % while it was above 23 % in 2013.

The growing extra-marital birth rate is the result of the growing number of families created by partnerships. However, the indicator of extra-marital births in Poland still remains one of the lowest in Europe.

Structure of population in Poland by the facto marital status

Poland is a country with a strong family tradition which is reflected in the structure of the population by de facto marital status.[1] In 2011 among the population aged 20 and more (30.3 million people) nearly 60 % remained legally married; among men, this percentage was over 62 %, and among women slightly less - almost 57 %. In addition, more than 2 % of the population 20+ declared to be in informal relationships (consensual unions[2]).

The next largest group by actual marital status are single men and women who have never married, who together accounted for 22 % of the population aged at least 20. There is clearly a variation by sex, i.e. the percentage of singles among women was less than 18 %, and among men up to 27 %. Divorced persons make up almost 5 % of the population aged 20 and more, and those separated represent less than 1 %.

The greatest diversity by sex occurs among widowed persons, who in 2011 accounted for just over 10 % of the population considered - widowers were just over 3 % of men, while widows accounted for over 16 % of women. This divergence deepens among older age groups - the result is that older men most often remain married for life, and older women are widows.

Census results in 2011 in terms of de facto marital status revealed that the actual population structure was similar to that in the census from 2002 . Additionally, the changes observed over the years were similar to those in the legal marital status. Compared with 2002, the number and proportion of single men/women (by more than 2 percentage points) and divorced persons (by more than 1 p.p.) increased. The number of persons declaring they remained in a legal marriage increased, but their share in the population aged 20 and more decreased. Similarly, the number of widows increased, while the percentage remained at a level similar to that recorded in 2002.

The largest change occurred for consensual unions. The number of partners increased by almost 2/3 (from approx. 392 thousand in 2002 to almost 638 thousand in 2011) - which means an increase in the number of consensual unions from nearly 200 thousand in 2002 to approx. 320 thousand in 2011. However, it is still one of the smallest groups of de facto marital status.

The structure of the population by age in the various categories of de facto marital status are similar to the structures of legal marital status.

The differences between the two categories of marital status are most significant for those age groups in which an increase in the proportion of persons cohabiting is observed, i.e. for single women and men aged below 40 and 40 and 50-year-old divorced persons.

The study of the population in consensual unions in terms of their legal marital status shows that the major part - over 61 % of relationships - are persons of legal marital status single men / women. The second group are divorced persons (nearly 29 % of cohabitants), and persons being legally married and widowed represent 5 % of the total number of partners.

This is undoubtedly related to the age of cohabiting persons. Among persons under 40, partnerships consist mainly of single people. Among those aged 20, they represent 95 %, but among those aged 30, the second most important group concerns those who are divorced (26 %). Divorced persons constitute also more than half of the 40- and 50-year-old female partners and 40- 50- and 60-year-old male partners. Among cohabiting couples, the older the age group, the more widows/widowers begin to dominate, particularly among women.

An analysis of the results of the censuses conducted in Poland over several years show that changes in the population aged 20 and more by marital status are not rapid. Slowly but steadily, the share of married persons is decreasing - particularly among men, while the proportion of divorced persons is growing strongly, though - from the point of view of legal marital status - they are still the least numerous group. The smallest changes concern widowed persons - their percentage in the total population aged 20 and more remains practically unchanged. On the other hand, in the case of single men and women, their share varies dependent on the baby booms and population declines. In the case of de facto marital status, the number of consensual unions increases.

See also

External links


  1. Data on marital status of the population come from censuses of 2002 and 2011.
  2. The information relates to heterosexual relationships. Polish legislation doesn’t provide for registration of partnerships – neither heterosexual nor homosexual.