Politicians in the past often talked about marriage being the bedrock of society, and marriage certainly was the norm. The number of solo parents was a fraction of what it is today, and the concept of a couple having children without being married was almost foreign. In fact for many couples they married specifically so they could have children.
We seem to be in a very different world today. Personally I'm still a believer in marriage, and I am typing this from an apartment in London, as I have travelled to the UK to attend the wedding of one of my mates. I love seeing a couple commit to remaining together until death do them part.
But the statistics out last week from Stats NZ show marriage continues to be in decline, perhaps terminal decline. The marriage rate is now barely higher than the divorce rate.
In 1975 the marriage rate was 36.9 and the divorce rate was 6.6, so around four-and-a-half times as high. In 2010 the marriage rate had fallen to 12.5 and the divorce rate was 10.2. This is slightly lower than the peak divorce rate of 17.1 in 1982. I wonder why it was so high that year - maybe it was arguments over the Springbok tour?
You can see the dramatic decline in the last 35 years. And as older generations die off, married couples will become rarer. In the 2006 census, the poportion of the over-15 population who were married dropped below 50 per cent for the first time.
Not all of the decline is due to people not marrying. Some of it is because people are marrying later. The median age 30 years ago for men (first time) was 24, and today it is 30. Women have gone from 22 to 28.
Despite the declining marriage rate, it is interesting that very few prime ministers have not been married (at least when elected). John Key is married, as was Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger, Mike Moore, Geoffrey Palmer and David Lange. Lange did seperate in office, but just before he resigned as PM.
Further back Muldoon, Kirk, Marshall, Holyoake, Holland, Fraser were all married. The last unmarried prime minister of New Zealand was Michael Joseph Savage, elected in 1935.
Is it just coincidence that no unmarried MP has become prime minister for 75 years? Would an unmarried MP struggle to be elected prime minister today, or would people not care? In the United Kingdom, Ted Heath was elected in 1970 and it didn't seem to be a big deal. Would it be here?
David Farrar is a centre-right blogger affiliated with the National Party.
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