A MAJORITY OF FRENCH BIRTHS ARE TO UNWED MOTHERS
Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- France became the first non- Scandinavian country in western Europe to record a majority of out-of-wedlock births.
Of the 816,500 births registered in France last year, 50.5 percent were to unmarried parents, up from 48.4 percent in 2006 and 40 percent 10 years ago, according to a report today by Insee, the Paris-based national statistics agency.
``What's led the rise in out-of-wedlock births is that a lifestyle that was once confined to Paris is now the norm even in rural areas,'' Guy Desplanques, head of Insee's demographics department, said in a telephone interview. ``Marriage is no longer considered indispensable to form a family.''
While the rate of unmarried births has risen the past decade, only Sweden, Norway, Estonia and Bulgaria had passed the 50 percent mark, according to Eurostat, the European Union statistics agency. In Sweden, they've represented the majority for the past decade.
Other countries are close. In 2006, the rate was 46 percent in Denmark, 47 percent in Slovenia and 44 percent in the U.K. While the rate has held steady in Denmark for 10 years, it's risen by a percentage point a year in Britain.
In Spain and Italy, where, like France, the majority is nominally Catholic, the rate of out-of-wedlock births has doubled in the past decade. They represent 27 percent in Spain and 17 percent in Italy.
By comparison, it was 36.9 percent in U.S. in 2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Insee's Desplanques said the rise in out-of-wedlock births are an inevitable result of the decline in marriages. Only 266,500 marriages were registered last year, down from 305,385 in 2000 as more couples opted for civil unions.