Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Women wait longer to start family

Nearly half of all babies in England and Wales were born outside marriage or a civil partnership last year, figures show

More babies than ever are being born to unmarried mothers, with women waiting increasingly longer to have children, according to new statistics.

In 2012 nearly half (47.5%) of all babies in England and Wales were born outside marriage or a civil partnership, representing a rise of almost 7% in the last decade.

The record figures, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), continue a long-term rise in the percentage of births outside wedlock - doubling in the last 25 years.

The trend is consistent with an increase in the number of couples living together without getting married, the ONS report said.

The data also shows that the average age of a woman having a baby has risen again to 29.8 years, up from 29.7 years in 2011.

"The rise in 2012 represents a continuation of the increasing age of mothers recorded since 1976," the report said. "These trends reflect the increasing numbers of women delaying childbearing to later ages.

"This may be due to a number of factors such as increased participation in higher education, increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising opportunity costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty, housing factors and instability of partnerships."

The average age of giving birth falls in unmarried mothers to 27, and increases to 31 in those who are married.

There were 729,674 live births in England and Wales in 2012, compared to 723,913 in 2011.

Nearly 30,000 were born to women over 40, a new record.

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