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Divorce rate rises sharply

For many couples the dream of a life together ends after only a few years

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe with four in ten marriages in ending this way, says the Federal Statistics Office.

Furthermore, there were 6.8 per cent more divorces in 2004 than in the previous year, more than twice the average rate for the 1990s (3.2 per cent).

The risk of a marriage ending in divorce has risen from 15 per cent in 1970 to 44 per cent in 2004, said the office in its 2005 Demographic Portrait of Switzerland.

"Without any change in the law and in mentalities among couples it has to be expected that one in four marriages will end in divorce," said the office.

Last year almost 18,000 divorces were recorded, the second highest rate after 1999 (21,000) when the divorce law was eased. In more than 95 per cent of cases the divorce was by mutual request.

European comparison

Statistically seen Switzerland's divorce rate is comparable to that of the Scandinavian countries and Britain, which are among the highest in Europe.

In 2004, Switzerland had a rate of 2.4 per cent per 1,000 inhabitants, whereas Britain had 2.7 (2002) and Finland 2.6 (2002).

But neighbouring France is lower at 2.1, as is Italy at 0.7 (both 2002 statistics). The European Union average is 2.0 (2002).

Even if most remarry, the number of divorced people rose strongly by the end of 2004 to 6.2 per cent of the population. This compares with 1.9 per cent in 1970.

The office noted that divorce was more likely in the first few years after the wedding. Around one quarter of unions dissolved in 2004 were less than six-years-old and more than half had not lasted more than ten years.

Instead of the seven-year-itch, the statisticians noted that in Switzerland most divorces took place in the sixth year of marriage.

Young and old

However, there was also a trend towards divorce among couples who have been married for a long time, found the office. For those who had been married more than 30 years, the divorce rate stood at 6.3 per cent of cases for 2004, compared with just three per cent in 1970.

This tendency can also been seen in the average number of years a couple were married before divorce. In 2004 it was 13.6 years, compared with 11.6 in 1970.

Divorcees are also becoming older, with more than 50 per cent over 40-years-old at the time of divorce.

Meanwhile, almost half of the divorcing couples last year had at least one child under the age of 18-years-old. This statistic has remained stable over the years.

In all, 13,690 children were affected by divorce in last year, with 43 per cent under ten-years-old. In two thirds of the cases the mother was granted custody, despite the fact that joint custody has been possible since 2000.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In Switzerland 44% marriages end in divorce
The country's divorce rate is 2.4 divorces per 1000 inhabitants (2004).
For the European Union it is: 2.0 (2002)
Britain: 2.7 (2002)
Finland: 2.6 (2003)
France: 2.1 (2002)
Spain: 1.0 (2002)
Italy: 0.7 (2002)

end of infobox


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