Divorce rates by country: A guide to the top 10 highest & lowest
The data collected by the Australian Census is one of the governments foremost tools for policy formation. It sheds light on the demographics and problems facing Australians today.
By Michael Sheahan, Legal Administration Assistant at Australian Family Lawyers.
The most recent Census was conducted in 2021, and the resulting Australian Bureau of Statistic releases have provided a plethora of insights into all facets of Australian lives, and notably, relationships and their breakdown.
The divorce rate in Australia stands at 2.2 divorces per 1000 Australians, with the highest recorded number of divorces in almost 50 years. The divorce rate is impacted by many factors, some of which are discussed here. But how does our divorce rate track against that of the rest of the world? What trends are we seeing across the globe in divorce and separation?
The divorce rate varies for nations around the globe, with their respective cultural and economic climates being variably accommodating to divorce. We have seen in Australia that when the legal barriers to getting a divorce were removed in the 70s, there was a corresponding spike in divorce immediately after. Not all nations release divorce data, and data-gathering methods are not uniform across countries. However, the UN Yearbook offers divorce information for the countries where it is available. Using this, we can see that the global divorce rate in 2021 was 1.8 divorces per 1000 people and that Australia’s divorce rate is 0.4 above the global figure.
Divorce rates around the world
Top 10 countries with the highest divorce rates
Here are the top 10 countries with the highest divorce rates in 2021.
- Maldives: 5.52
- Kazakhstan: 4.6
- Russia: 4.4
- Belarus: 3.7
- Belgium: 3.7
- Moldova: 3.3
- China: 3.2
- Ukraine: 3.1
- Cuba: 2.9
- Nigeria: 2.9
The country with the highest divorce rate: The Maldives
The archipelagic paradise is world renowned for its tropical beaches and a diverse marine ecosystem, but seldom associated with divorce. Not only did the Maldives have the highest divorce rate in the world in 2021, but it also has the highest divorce rate of any country of time in history. They were awarded a Guinness World Record for the highest divorce rate on record in 2002, with 10.97 divorces per 1000 Maldivians. This was over twice as high as the second highest divorce rate ever recorded.
The second highest divorce rate was Belarus with 4.63, and the United States had the third highest in record with a divorce rate of 4.34. The United Nations reported that the average 30-year-old woman in the Maldives had already had three divorces.
Its divorce rate may be explained by the accessibility of divorce, and the stigmas surrounding premarital sex. Because of how relatively inexpensive divorce and marriage are in the Maldives, and how uncomplicated the legal process of divorce is, the citizens of the Maldives are more inclined to marry, and then divorce if the marriage does not work. Combined with a stigma against premarital sex, this has led to the highest divorce rate in the world, more than twice as high as that of Australia.
Countries with the lowest divorce rates
- India: 0.01
- Mozambique: 0.04
- Kenya: 0.06
- Zimbabwe: 0.07
- Vietnam: 0.2
- South Africa: 0.4
- Brazil: 0.4
- Qatar: 0.4
- Libya: 0.5
- Peru: 0.5
- Guatemala: 0.5
- Ireland: 0.7
The country with the lowest divorce rate: India
While the Maldives are the divorce capital of the world due to its accessibility, the inverse is true of India. Despite overtaking China this year to claim the title of the largest population of any country in the world with 1.42 billion people, as few as 108 divorces were granted in India in 2021. Their low divorce rates are the result of restrictive legislation, which has different requirements based on the religion of the couple. Under the Hindu Marriage Act, acceptable grounds for divorce include, amongst others:
- Conversion to another religion
- Mental disorder
- If the wife was married before she was 15 years old.
Acceptable grounds for divorce under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939, include, amongst others:
- The husband’s imprisonment for 7 years or more
- The husband’s whereabouts have been unknown for 4 years or more
Compared to the Australian system, which has allowed “No-fault divorce” since the introduction of the Family Law Act in 1975, divorce is prohibitively hard to access in India. While Indian law requires one of the above conditions to be satisfied in order for a divorce to be granted, Australians are able to seek a divorce if the parties have been separated for 12 months and there is no reasonable likelihood of their continuing married life.
Divorce rates by country
Divorce rates by countries around the globe are influenced by the particular make-up of their legal system, culture, and economic viability. The divorce statistics show a world in flux, with cultural movements gaining steam before fizzling out and legislation being refined, rewritten, and passed by a changing cast of politicians and leaders. Divorce does not remain untouched by events like the COVID pandemic, by movements allowing greater economic freedoms for women, and by the reduced role religion plays in many societies in the West. Behind the divorce rates of India, China, the US, the UK, Canada, Russia, and Australia, there are social, legal, religious, and economic currents that guide the lives of their citizens and their attitudes towards marriage, and its breakdown.
Australian Family Lawyer’s Australian Relationships: Love, Marriage, and Divorce in a modern nation discusses Marriage and divorce statistics in greater detail, as well as the forces that have shaped and formed divorce in Australia. The Australian Relationships Report was released in March of 2023 and uses the most recent statistical data and research to give Australians the Family Lawyers’ insight into family law issues.
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