More births outside marriage than ever before

New statistics have revealed that most babies born in England and Wales in 2021 were not born to married couples for the first time since records began in 1845, Sky News reports.

The figures coincide with the Covid lockdown when weddings and civil partnership celebrations were mostly impossible and they also show an increase in stillbirths, compared to 2020.

The number of babies being born to mothers who are married or in a civil partnership has fallen, relating to those born to mothers who are not in such relationships.

ONS live birth statistics

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 624,828 live births registered in England and Wales in 2021. The figure includes 320,713 live births to women who were not married or in a civil partnership when they delivered, and 304,115 live births to parents who were married or had a civil partnership.

Dr James Tucker, the head of health analysis at the ONS, said the figures were part of a long-term trend of declining marriage rates, with more and more people choosing to live together instead.

He urged caution, however, when interpreting the numbers as no-one knew the full impact yet of the pandemic on marriage and civil partnership statistics. The fertility rate also rose for the first time since 2012, with 1.61 children per woman in 2021, compared to 1.58 in 2020, though the 2021 rate is still lower than that of 2019.

Yearly increase in live births

The 624,828 live births total registered last year was a rise of 1.8 percent in 2020. This is the first yearly increase in live births since the year 2015, though it still remains below the 2019 number.

There has been a long-term trend of falling live births, which was the case before the pandemic, according to the ONS. The figures are also based on birth registrations and delays in these might mean that some 2021 births have not been covered.

The latest figures follow provisional data that was based on the NHS births notifications published by the ONS in March this year. The overall increase in fertility showed rates fell among younger people but rose in older women.

The largest decrease in fertility was among women and girls under the age of 20 (16 percent). For women aged 35 to 39, fertility rates increased by 5 percent. And fertility rates increased across all English regions, except for London and the West Midlands.

In 2021, there were 2,597 stillbirths, an increase of 226 compared to 2020.


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