Is sharp drop in marriages in 2020 due to COVID?

COVID-19 likely cause of sharp drop in marriages in 2020
Stats NZ 5 August 2021
Family First Comment: We won’t truly know until this time next year when we can see the trend and whether people are dramatically turning their back on marriage (tragic if they are) or they simply postponed in exceptional circumstances (like Jacinda 🙂 )

The number of marriages, civil unions, and divorces fell sharply in 2020, Stats NZ said today.

“Last year, 16,779 New Zealand residents celebrated a marriage or civil union,” population estimates and projections manager Hamish Slack said.

“Marriages and civil unions have decreased over the last couple of years, down from 19,071 in 2019 and 20,949 in 2018, but with a sharper drop in 2020 than in previous years, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There was a noticeable drop in marriages coinciding with COVID-19 alert level 4. During the second quarter (April–June 2020) there were only 1,278 marriages and civil unions, compared with 3,957 in 2019. However, during the other three quarters there were slightly more marriages per quarter in 2020 compared with 2019.

The rate of marriages per 1000 people eligible to marry has dropped to its lowest rate of 8.3 in 2020. This is likely the result of the drop in number of marriages and the continuing population increase. The peak marriage rate was in 1971 with 45.5 couples tying the knot per 1000 eligible people, and has been trending downwards since.


Married couples in New Zealand are required to be separated for at least two-years prior to applying for a divorce, which means the effect of COVID-19 on divorces cannot be determined yet.

After a rise in the number of couples granted a divorce in 2019 (8,388 divorces, compared with 7,455 in 2018), the number dropped to 7,707 in 2020. This continues the general downward trend in divorces since the peak in 1982.

In 2020 the divorce rate was 7.6 per 1000 married couples, compared with an average of 8.4 over the previous five years.

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