Marriage couldn’t be more unattractive â€“ the number of us getting hitched has slumped to the lowest level since records began, 150 years ago. By next year, it’s predicted that singletons will be in the majority.
No wonder the age we get married has risen over the years, to 30 for women and 31 for men â€“ about 10 years older than our parents. Another factor in the decline of marriage is the lack of tax incentives â€“ why bother going through with it if you’re no better off? Labour has been so anxious not to discriminate against single mothers and one-parent families, and so keen to provide financial assistance to the disadvantaged, that they’ve omitted to sufficiently reward those who are in a stable relationship, raising children within the framework of a marriage. The result? Young women who have kids and claim housing benefit without marrying, and who marginalise men.
By contrast, a couple in their twenties contemplating marriage have almost no chance of finding a place to live that they can afford to buy. After school or college, young people are stuck at home for longer than any previous generation (their grandparents would have buggered off at 16 or 18). They’re living in their childhood bedrooms â€“ with a smaller living space than many prisoners â€“ and thousands are crippled with massive student loans. Last week, graduates were told to set their sights low, if they wanted work, so what chance of ever affording the luxury of a wedding?
The church can bleat on about marriage being a “life-time commitment” but that’s not how people think these days. In an age of social networking, speed dating and internet chat-rooms, young people are genuinely confused about what constitutes a relationship, let alone one that’s supposed to last more than a couple of months.
As has been pointed out before, the notion that one can pander to divergent groups and not penalize the majority into self-destruction is an illusion.
Ongoing social problems, liberal social reforms, and lack of consensus among Britons guarantee that marriage — and with it, stable childhood — is an endangered species.