Monday, April 20, 1998 (Australia)
According to experts,
these women were part of the last generation of
women to have experienced the "shotgun" wedding, and the social pressures to
legalise their sexual relations. But due to legalised abortion and the acceptance
of de facto relationships, today's young women, especially those with a higher
education, may not match the marriage rates of the baby boomers.
Figures generated from
a research project on the 1996 census by Dr Bob
Birrell of Melbourne's Monash University, show that younger women are marrying
much later than they did a decade ago, and many are single in their 30s.
In 1986, 27 per cent of women had not married by the time they were in
their late 20s; in 1996 a massive 45 per cent of women in this age group were
still unmarried. Of the 30-year-olds, the proportion of never-marrieds nearly doubled
over the decade, from 12 per cent to 23 per cent.
Dr Gordon Carmichael,
of the Australian National University's demography
program, predicts that up to 20 per cent of the never-married women, now in their early
30s, will entirely avoid formal marriage and will remain single or live in a de facto union.
Based on past experience, he says these women in their 30s in the main
would have married by now if they were going to do so. "But that doesn't mean they
won't have partners," he said.
Young women are increasingly
happy to be common law wives and many have a
string of de facto relationships - often on their way to marriage.
More than half the people who married in the early '90s had co-habited
prior to the wedding. The Birrell data shows that in 1996 about 13 per cent of women in
their 20s were in de facto relationships, the highest rate of all the age groups.
And the proportion of older people in de facto unions has nearly doubled in the past decade.
The head of the school
of Sociology, Politics and Anthropology, at
Melbourne's La Trobe University, Professor David de Vaus, said: "De facto relationships are
not all the same. Many are casual relationships which don't last long, and others are couples who see no point in formalising their status. Having children is the trigger for a lot of de
facto couples to get married."
Higher education puts
a brake on marriage - sometimes permanently. For
example, women aged 25 to 29 with degrees are significantly less likely to be married than
women of that age with no qualifications. And a high 30 per cent of university-educated
women aged 30 to 34 have never been married. Many are likely to tie the knot by their
late 30s - but how many is the great unknown. If they look to the experiences of their older
university-educated sisters, now in their 40s, they will find that only 14 per cent never married.
But demographers expect
the proportion of singles to be higher when
today's well-educated 30-somethings reach their 40s.
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