Divorce rate half of what we thought

By Zou Huilin (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-26 06:48

SHANGHAI: In 2005, the country's divorce rate was 2.76 per 1,000 people.

For last year, the figure is likely to be 1.3.

A sudden outbreak of conjugal conviviality?

Actually, it is more like the old one about lies and statistics.

For years, the official divorce rate released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) was calculated based on the number of divorcees.

To the discomfiture of many in the country, the rate was uncomfortably close to the 3.7 in the United States and higher than around 2 in Japan and South Korea.

Now, to their relief, the picture will be set right by basing the figure on the number of divorced couples instead of divorcees, an internationally-followed practice.

According to official figures, there were 1.61 million divorced couples last year; and according to the new method of computation, the divorce rate for the year should be 1.3 per 1,000.

If the calculations were extrapolated to 2005, the figure would have been 1.38 instead of 2.76.

The statistical correction came about thanks to the unstinting efforts of Xu Anqi, a senior researcher at the Marriage and Family Institute of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

For years, she waged a lone battle to get the "mistake" corrected.

She started to correspond with various organizations such as the NBS, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Supreme People's Court from the 1990s but many officials thought the wrong calculation would not cause any trouble, she said.

"I strongly disagreed with them. Based on the wrong statistics, many sensational research reports came out. For example, some even suggested that the divorce rate in China had surpassed that in the United States."

She said that many UN and internationally-renowned research institutes used the official statistics, which caused a lot of international misunderstanding about marriage in China.

Her efforts have yielded result and the 2006 Yearbook of Population Studies, to be released soon, will finally use the correct method of calculation.

He Feng, a gender studies researcher at Fudan University, said: "Xu's effort is crucial to sociological studies. We always do a lot of horizontal comparisons of statistics between China and other countries. We should live up to global standards."

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