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Marriage and the family continue to weaken in a number of countries In Canada close to 12 million couples were living in a common-law relationship in 2001 up 20 from 1995 the Globe and Mail newspaper reported July 11 2002 By contrast the number of married couples increased just 3 to 64 million from 62 million over the same period The figures come from Statistics Canadas General Social Survey which collected information on relationship ties marital splits and new unions In 2001 almost 90 of Canadian men and women aged 50 to 69 had started their conjugal life through marriage But among men and women aged 30 to 39 the study found that fully 40 were expected to choose a common-law relationship as their first union For women aged 20 to 29 the percentage is estimated to reach 53 The appeal of marriage has dropped most significantly in traditionally Catholic Quebec There only 26 of women aged 30 to 39 are expected to choose marriage to start their conjugal lives One-third of women in Quebec had married their common-law partner at the time of the survey compared with 59 of women in the other provinces The Canadian situation mirrors Englands situation On Nov 26 2001 the Telegraph revealed that government statistics show that the number of cohabiting couples in England and Wales has reached more than 15 million with four in 10 children now born outside marriage compared with one in 10 in the 1970s The number of couples living together is expected to double over the next 20 years Ireland too has seen big changes in family structures the Irish Independent observed May 20 2002 In 1994 one in every four children was born outside marriage Now more than one in every three children is born to single mothers and the rate of first births to unmarried mothers is increasing at 20 times
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