Beijing - More than 848,000 couples registered for divorce at civil affair bureaus across the country in the first six months of the year, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. This figure represents a rise of almost 10 percent year-on-year.
The ministry also gave the divorce rates of 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.
The ranking shows that the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Chongqing municipality are the top two places for divorces, followed by Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning, three of Northeast China's provinces. Shanghai ranks sixth, and Beijing ranks eighth.
According to annual statistical reports, the number of couples divorcing - either by registering at civil affair bureaus or going to court - has been rising continuously since 2003, when the revised Regulation on Marriage Registration took effect.
"The revised regulation has to some extent facilitated more couples getting divorced at civil affairs bureaus," said Xu Anqi, a researcher with Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, in an interview with the Mirror Evening News.
But Xu said the divorce rate has been on the rise for decades. The rate was 0.03 percent in 1979, 0.07 percent in 1990 and roughly 0.1 percent in 2000, climbing to 0.21 percent in 2003.
A report by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in June this year revealed that there was an annual rise of 7.6 percent in the number of divorces from 2005 to 2009, with 2.47 million couples divorcing in 2009.
According to Xu, the major cause of this rise is the decreasing cohesiveness between married couples.
Social mobility has weakened the cohesiveness of family ties, said Xu. There have been more marriages between people coming from different places because of greater mobility, but the clash of backgrounds and values of such couples may lead to problems in a marriage.
She said that people also tend to become distanced from their partners due to the pressures of work, and extra-marital relationships are more common because of expanding social circles.
Xu added that cohesiveness also tends to decrease when couples live away from their parents and lack their advice and avoid their intervention.
Childlessness may also be a cause for divorce, Xu said, giving Shanghai as an example, where the decreasing fertility rate has accompanied an increasing divorce rate.
However, China's divorce rate is still within the normal range, Xu said, adding that it will continue to increase for a long time, though the pace will be slowed.