Thursday April 16,2009
By Sarah O'Grady, Social Affairs Correspondent
YOUNG women are putting babies before marriage, a snapshot of modern Britain showed yesterday.
And critics blamed Labour’s 12 years in power for this erosion of traditional family values.
For the first time ever, there are more unmarried women under 30 with children than there are married women in this age group.
Nearly a third of women aged between 25 and 29 are unwed mothers while less than a quarter of their peers are married, according to the figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Since Labour came to power, at least 4,000 fewer marriages have taken place every year, leading to a 111-year low.
Between 1996 and 2006 some 40,000 fewer marriages were recorded.
Experts said Labour’s constant political meddling and tax breaks for single mothers have given many women an incentive to shun a traditional married family life.
Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said the Government must take its share of the blame for stripping away tax benefits and most legal privileges that used to go with marriage. “The Government is stubbornly refusing to follow the evidence. Yet to formulate public policy on the assumption that all relationships are of equal value to society is to fly in the face of the facts.”
He pointed to statistics that show children who are brought up by lone parents or cohabiting couples are more likely to suffer poor health, do badly at school, and fall into crime, or alcohol and drug abuse.
Lone parenthood is subsidised by a benefits system that means three out of four couples would be better off apart. Some single parents are £100 a week richer than couples in similar circumstances.
Thanks to Labour, single mothers can claim a raft of benefits as well as a payment each time they have another baby. They are eligible for income support of £47.95 to £60.50 a week as they are unable to work because they care for their children.
Anyone on income support qualifies for free dental care, free prescriptions and free school meals.
They are also entitled to the maximum council tax benefit, which essentially means they don’t pay any.
Housing benefit, too, is available to cover rent for those living in local authority accommodation. Robert Whelan, of the Civitas think-tank, which has charted the decline of marriage, said: “Government has not just ceased to support marriage, it puts barriers in the way.
“There is the widely known state bias against marriage. ”
The shift was revealed by the ONS in its annual Social Trends study which asked women about events in their lives before they reached 25.
The younger they were, the less likely they were to have married or given birth. Almost a third of 25 to 29-year-olds were unwed mothers, but only 24 per cent of this age group were married.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of women in their mid-to-late 30s married before they were 25, while a third were mothers by that age. In the 55 to 59 age group, three-quarters were married before 25 and more than half (51 per cent) had had children.
Only 237,000 couples married in 2006 – the lowest since 1895.