Big shift in marriages and divorces in South Africa

 ·14 Mar 2024

South Africans are still losing interest in getting married, despite numbers normalising from a significant slump experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic years.

Divorces, meanwhile, also saw a post-Covid rebound, but at a much faster rate than the newlyweds.

According to recently released data from StatsSA, South Africa recorded a nearly 5% annual increase in the number of registered marriages and unions for 2022, versus an 11% climb in divorces.

The latest numbers continue to show a steady decline in the marriages over the last decade, as divorce rates remained relatively high.

Making vows

There were a total of 111,784 civil marriages, 4,376 customary marriages, and 2,461 civil unions registered in 2022. This represents 5%, 63.5% and 9.9% increases from 2021. 

The median ages of bridegrooms and brides for civil marriages were 38 and 34 years, respectively, while customary marriages were 35 and 29 years old.

Looking at civil unions, the median age for “spouses-1 and spouses-2” were 35 years and 33 years.

Over a quarter of the civil marriages were registered in Gauteng, and around 80.2% of the grooms and 85.4% of the brides tied the knot for the first time.

Nearly 30% of the registered customary marriages were from Limpopo, followed by KwaZulu-Natal.

“Generally, the warmer months (beginning from September and peaking in December) are the most popular months for solemnising marriages in South Africa,” said Stats SA.

Statistics show that fewer South Africans and permanent residents are choosing to make their way down the aisle, although numbers have been rebounding somewhat since Covid.

“The number of registered marriages consistently declined in the ten-year period (2013 to 2022) except for a slight increase of 0.6% between 2015 and 2016 and an increase of 5% between 2021 and 2022,” said the government stats agency.

Breaking vows

2022 saw a significant 10.9% increase in divorce forms being processed, sitting at 20,196 for the year.

This marks an estimated 33 divorces per 100,000 resident population.

Results also showed that four in ten divorces were from marriages that lasted for less than 10 years.

According to StatsSA, the crude divorce rates shows that “the white population group had the highest rate of 84 per 100,000 estimated resident population.”

Source: StatsSA

Additionally, more women (55.8%) filed for divorce than men (33.2%). In 5.5% of the cases, the plaintiff’s sex was not identified, while 5.4% of divorce proceedings were initiated by both parties.

The provincial distribution indicates that Gauteng, the Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal were the provinces with the highest number of divorces granted, contributing 61.6% of all divorces.

More than 80% of divorces for men and women were from first-time marriages. This is compared to 9% of men and 7.7% of women from second-time marriages.

Less than 2% of men and women were getting divorced for at least the third time.

Read: Huge changes for South African divorces in the works

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