London, Mar 27 (UNI) The proportion of British people getting married has hit an all time low since records began almost 150 years ago.
The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, said that in 2006, fewer than ten in every 1,000 single adults in England and Wales were married.
The proportion of men and women getting married is below any level found since figures were first kept nearly 150 years ago, the report said.
And the number of weddings held in 2006 was the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level, it added.
Among men the rate was 22.8 in every 1,000, while among women, it was 20.5. When marriage-rates were first calculated in 1862 the level was 58.7 for men and 50 for women, the report said.
Even during the world war years marriage rates for women never dropped below 40 in 1,000. They fell below 30 for the first time in 1995, it claimed.
One in four single women under retirement age is thought to be living unmarried with a partner. The age of first-time brides and bridegrooms is continuing to increase. Women are nearly 30 while the man is almost 32, the report informed.
One reason for the plunge in marriage numbers appears to be the crackdown on sham ceremonies undertaken by immigration authorities in 2005.
The Office for National Statistics said yesterday that the restrictions on marriage for non-European citizens introduced in February that year were ''one of the many factors that may have contributed to the fall in the number of marriages''.
Sham marriages may have been responsible for the blip in wedding figures that pushed the numbers up to more than 273,000 in 2004.
But the tax and benefit system came under most fervent attack.
Advantages for married couples have gradually been withdrawn, benefits such as tax credits now favour individuals living with children rather than couples and the bias against couples is thought to have contributed to the growing numbers ''living apart together''.
Around a million couples are thought to consider themselves an item but continue to remain living in separate homes.
Researcher and author Mrs Morgan said, ''I have been reading the Children's Plan put out by Children's Secretary Ed Balls last year.
It does not mention marriage once.
''Stable families are the best formula for bringing up children and preventing delinquency, anti-social behaviour and crime. So a failed family policy is itself a major cause of crime,'' the Dailymail quoted her as saying.
UNI XC RJ HT1408