Fewer and Fewer Marriages in Croatia, Especially Church-Registered

Katarina Anđelković

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These are trends at the level of the European Union that are reflected in Croatia as well, said Dubravka Rogić-Hadžalić, Head of Demographic and Social Statistics at the State Bureau of Statistics, reports Index.

10 percent fewer marriages in 10 years

In 2021, 18,203 marriages were concluded in Croatia, while five or ten years ago, their number was 10 percent higher. Statistics record that 20,323 marriages were concluded in 2012 and 20,310 in 2017. Observing a longer period, a downward trend of marriages is noticeable, with the fewest, 15,196, recorded during the covid pandemic in 2020.

The average age at first marriage is increasing for both the groom and the bride. For example, in 1989, the average age of the bride was 23, and the groom was 27, while in 2021, the average age of newlyweds was 29 and 32.

Over time, the number of religious marriages decreased while the number of civil marriages increased, and almost a quarter of children were born out of wedlock.

52 percent of couples entered into a civil marriage

In 2021, 52 percent of couples entered into a civil marriage, and 48 percent entered a religious marriage, while in 2012, for example, there were 58 percent of religious and 42 percent of civil marriages.

8,598 children were born out of wedlock in Croatia, 24 percent of the total live births. Eurostat data show that, for example, in France, the number of children born out of wedlock is significantly higher and amounts to 62 percent, in Norway 59 percent, Portugal 58, and Slovenia 57 percent.

In 2021, there were 5,100 legally divorced marriages, which is significantly less than in previous years. Thus, in 2016, statistics recorded 7,036 legally divorced marriages.

Rogić-Hadžalić says that the number of divorced marriages is decreasing year by year. The average duration of divorced marriages is 15 years.

Some demographic studies by experts from the Department of Demography link the risk of divorce with the duration of the marriage, so the analysis of a 25-year period showed that the highest risk of divorce is recorded during the fourth and fifth years of marriage. The risk reduces over time for couples who pass the fifth anniversary of marriage.

Fewer births reduce the number of people of marriageable age

In his commentary for Hina, demographer Anđelko Akrap says that the age composition of the population is key to the issue of a lower number of marriages and divorces. He explained that due to the long-term decrease in the number of births, the number of people entering the marriageable age and getting married is decreasing, and a significant number of emigrants since 2008 is also connected with this, which has increased especially since 2013.

Also, young people delay or do not enter into marriage due to economic reasons, for example, the inability to find a place to live and the problem of temporary work contracts in Croatia. Due to the smaller number of marriages, there are also fewer divorces, and it has been shown that marriages are divorced less often in economically uncertain times.

With the number of children in a marriage, the possibility of divorce decreases. Unstable marriages with children are usually divorced after the children reach the age of 14.

Marriage often formalized after the birth of the first child

Akrap also says that the number of children born out of wedlock is increasing, and marriages often only happen after the birth of the first child. This is also the case with church marriages, which occur after the birth of the first child. Thus, the baptism of a child often results in the parents’ marriage.

However, regardless of this, the number of church-registered marriages is decreasing, and Akrap says that in the church, marriages are concluded after the newlyweds attend a marriage course, so this can, apart from secularization, affect their lower number.

Croatian society still has, in a positive sense, a fairly traditional approach to marriage and family, but the situation is gradually changing, the demographer says.

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