Divorce politics #2

A postscript to last year’s post on divorce statistics.

A common argument of left-familists is that WorkChoices is/was bad for families. I argued last year that this was not showing in the divorce statsitics; that these were continuing a downwards trend.

The divorce statistics for 2007, released today, confirm that this trend continued through WorkChoices’ first – and only – full year of operation.

It is only possible to calculate high-quality statistics in census years, ie divorces as a percentage of marriages, but in 2007 the crude divorce rate dropped from 2.5 per 1,000 persons to 2.3, with a nearly 7% decline in the absolute number of divorces.

Arguably only next year will we get a true marriage test of WorkChoices, because of the need for a year of separation before a divorce, but I doubt this trend will stop. It’s likely to be at least in part a prosperity dividend, and therefore the good economic conditions in 2007 will help produce another low divorce rate for 2008.

15 thoughts on “Divorce politics #2

  1. Even if WorkChoices was bad for families, I would be really surprised if it made such an impact on the divorce rates that you could actually measure it. We’ve had higher inflation than wage growth in some brackets, for example, which is surely bad for families, but that hasn’t done much either.


  2. I agree with conrad. Workchoices could only affect people slowly as well, since it’s effects would have been felt over the decade after it was introduced. Secondly, wouldn’t tough economic times cause some people to put off getting divorced because they can’t ‘afford’ it?


  3. Recently there has also been an uptick in the marriage rate. The figures show a small but steady rise in marriages over the noughties, during the high-tide of Howard cultural conservatism:

    the drop in the divorce rate since 2001 has been accompanied by a small increase in the number of marriages in the same period.

    ABS figures from 2006 show a 0.2 per cent increase in the crude marriage rate since 2001 when the rate bottomed out at 2.3 per cent.

    The number of registered marriages in 2001 was 103,130, by 2006 this figure was up 11,092 to 114,222.

    No doubt many of those anxious, status-obsessed thirty-something career women that one is always seeing on TV shows making a last ditch effort to get hitched before their body clock alarm goes off. Still better late than never.

    Falling divorce rates and rising marriage rates are also a basic indicator of improved social cohesion or integration ie people who stay together like each other more.

    This gives the lie to the constant barrage against Howard’s “corporalist” cultural policies which were somehow supposed to be setting Australian against Australian. The very opposite was the case.

    Still, WorkChoices would have hurt family values by further degrading the status of working class men. The bottom end of that S-E strata is in danger of going feral if they cannot find decent well-paid employment.

    Likewise, hypergamous middle-class women are in danger of becoming barren if they cannot find a decent well-paid man to mate with.

    Right- and Left-liberals in their various post-modern guises appear to have concerted a pincer movement on the family. All the better to undermine the communitarian foundations of an Open Society.


  4. Andrew,

    Merely because something is bad for families doesn’t mean an increase in divorce.

    Are you channelling LP or something.

    This is one of the most ridiculous comments I have have read


  5. Contrary to Michael’s comment, I think it makes sense to look for the effects of supposedly majorly “bad for families” policies like WorkChoices in divorce stats. Obviously, a strong marraige is unlikely to be unravelled by such policies, but if WorkChoices really had the major effects claimed of it, some relationships already in a marginal situation may well be pushed over the edge (possibly with a lag following implementation).

    Of course, that we see no discernible effect does not necessarily mean that WC did not cause some marraiges to unravel. Leaving aside other factors affecting divorce rates, it is possible that WC, while causing some marginal marraiges to unravel, may also have prolonged some otherwise marginal relationships, to the extent that the policy allowed the wage earner to gain (or retain) a higher income/better job which relieved stress on household budgets.


  6. I’m with Michael on this. That was a dumb post, unusual for Andrew.

    Even the most fervent Workchoice opponent would not claim it caused an immediate uptick in divorce, and an uptick so large that it would visibly outweigh both the booming labour market and the longer term aging of the population that is slowly pushing rates down.


  7. “Even the most fervent Workchoice opponent would not claim it caused an immediate uptick in divorce,:..

    derrida derider

    “The studies confirm what many have experienced during two decades of labour market deregulation…. More alarming, though, is the direct damage to the family unit in the form of high levels of depression and stress; drug and alcohol problems; strained relationships, leading to separation and divorce; and reduced child welfare.”

    – Labor Senator Ursula Stephens, speaking on a WorkChoices-related piece of legislation.

    According to Stephens, there should indeed be a rising divorce rate, but there isn’t (though she is not claiming any new immediate uptick from WorkChoices).

    DD’s latter comment about the booming labour market is a version of the point I have been making all along – that the dominant factor affecting workplace relations is the labour market and not its specific regulation. While I normatively support a contractual model of labour market relations, I don’t believe that WorkChoices would have had a large effect.

    People like John Buchanan were making hyperbolic claims about the effect of WorkChoices on families, and I have since been reporting all the statistical information relating to these claims that I have noticed.

    As I noted in the post, I am well aware that this isn’t hugely strong evidence, but it is trending in the wrong direction if the Buchanan claims were to have any hope of being proven correct.


  8. work can be bad for families without divorce coming into it.

    an obligation to work longer hours for example.

    Merely because other people are hyperbolic about this subject is no reason why you should be.

    you are far too good for that


  9. Some people wish to measure things which cannot be measured. This is an example of that.

    Some people think anecdotes over an Eatern suburbs dinner party whilst sipping chardonnay is suffice. Perhaps they should shut up


  10. “Some people wish to measure things which cannot be measured. ”

    So you are now saying the claims cannot be tested and are goobledegook? Fine, I guess you must now give up the claim.


  11. Jase,
    Saying something cannot be measured doesn’t mean the claim is without merit.

    It merely means you cannot measure it.

    If I am told I have to work longer hours and therefore see less of my kids , I don’t need any sort of measurement to tell me the family time is worse.

    Any person who is attempting to say Divorce is a proxy for ‘stress on the family’ is off the pixies.

    now that is something worth commenting about at Eastern suburbs dinner parties


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