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Decreasing divorce rate still hides a melancholy reality

Lovers of all ages celebrated Chinese Valentine's Day yesterday, which fell this year on Aug. 2, the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese Lunar calendar. The auspicious date marks the reunion of the seventh daughter of Shangdi, the supreme god of Chinese folklore, and a cowherd in the Milky Way, according to an ancient folktale. For many people, however, there weren't any reasons to celebrate this Chinese Valentine's Day because they had already divorced in 2013.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior in July, nearly 10 couples out of every 1,000 went their separate ways last year. This figure represents 53,599 divorced couples, down 4 percent from the previous year. Why? What would be the reasons behind such a high divorce rate here? Maybe there were some irreconcilable differences or some financial burdens or personal shortcomings or perhaps parental pressure to have babies? Nobody can actually explain what makes a good and lasting marriage, but when marriages fail in Taiwan, everyone tries to find a reason.

The ministry pointed out that the number of divorces decreased with the increased number of marriage years. Those who had been married for less than five years, for instance, accounted for the most divorces at 30.6 percent, followed by those who had been married for between five and nine years (24.4 percent). Looking at divorce rates for the past 15 years, the ministry also stressed that between 1998 and 2013, the number of divorces averaged 50,567 couples per year, and this year's numbers are about average.

When we compare Taiwan's crude divorce rate, that is the number of divorces per 1,000 inhabitants, to other countries though, this year's number still hides a sad truth — it is much, much higher than in most countries. In 2012, the latest year for which data for the European Union as a whole are available, the highest crude divorce rates were recorded in Latvia (3.6 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants) and Lithuania (3.5), ahead of Denmark (2.8). The lowest crude divorce rate that same year was recorded in Ireland (0.6 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants). Italy (0.9 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants, 2011 data), Malta (1.1), Greece (1.2, 2010 data), Slovenia (1.2) and Croatia (1.3) also recorded relatively low crude divorce rates. So, the real question remains: why does Taiwan have such a high crude divorce rate in the first place?

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