People in Belgium get married at ever later stage in life

The age at which people in Belgium enter their first marriage has been rising. The trend is once again confirmed in the latest figures published by Statbel, the Belgian statistics office.

The phenomenon is largely driven by a rise in popularity of alternatives to marriage and the fact that women who previously married out of necessity or due to social pressure have become increasingly more independent and career-driven. This is mirrored in the later age at which people enter into their first marriage.

Whilst the average age of individual spouses increased to 33.6 years and 31.3 years in 2021, the age difference between the two partners remained stable at 2.3 years, Statbel showed.

This trend is consistent with findings by Eurostat in 2015, which showed that across the EU the age at first marriage for both men and women increased by approximately one to four years between 2000 and 2013. A growing proportion of the population get married after the age of 30.

Tax benefits

The delay in getting married can, in part, be explained by the fact that alternatives to marriage, like consensual unions and registered partnerships, have become more widespread.

People who live in a consensual union (or legally cohabiting) in Belgium have the same legal and financial status as married couples, meaning that couples living together can access the same tax benefits as those that are married. As a result, many people postpone tying the knot.

Last year, 37,768 couples were living in consensual unions – a 4% increase compared to 2020 (when the figure mainly dropped as a result of the pandemic), but still far below the 2019 level.

However, the average duration of legal cohabitation before termination continues to increase, from 5.2 years in 2020 to 5.4 years in 2021. Marriage was the main reason for the termination of legal cohabitation (in 54.1% of cases).

More marriages, drop in divorces

In 2021, Belgium registered 40,836 marriages – up 25% on 2020 but still fewer than in 2019. The drop in 2020 can mainly be explained by the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on gatherings as a result of this. Of this total, 1,087 marriages were performed between same-sex partners.

Between 2014 and 2019, the number of marriages remained stable at around 45,000 every year.

Meanwhile, the number of divorces increased slightly (+4% to 22,156) compared to 2020, but is still lower than in 2019 (22,435). This is in line with the downward trend of the past decade, according to Statbel. Overall, four in ten marriages end in divorce, a divorce rate that has remained stable.

Last year, 41,885 people became a widow or widower: a 7.3% drop compared to 2020, when deaths rose as a result of the health crisis.



© BELGA PHOTO (Mathieu Golinvaux / Albert Nieboer / Netherlands OUT / Point de Vue OUT)







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