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China divorces up 18.2% in 2007
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China's civil affair department registered annual increases in both divorces and marriages in 2007, although the number of break-ups rose faster.

About 1.4 million couples divorced last year, a year-on-year increase of 18.2 percent, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Meanwhile, 9.5 million couples married, up 11.8 percent from 2006.

The number of divorces has been rising steadily since 1980 when the figure was 341,000.

Last year's total could exceed 1.4 million because the report omitted court-sanctioned divorces.

Sociologists attributed the increase to the fast-changing society and challenges to traditional concepts of marriage.

For instance, frequent migration and busier work could challenge the stability of marriages, Xu Anqi, an expert from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Beijing-based Global Times.

A new regulation on marriage and divorce, taking effect in 2003, simplified the divorce procedure, allowing couples to divorce in a day at a cost of 10 yuan (US$1.36).

Previously, couples required permission from employers or community committees to divorce, and many stayed together to avoid public embarrassment.

More Chinese women were financially and mentally independent and determined to be single, said Chen Xinxin, an expert with the Women's Studies Institute of China.

The increase in break-ups did not mean that Chinese were losing faith in marriage, Xu said. "They are looking for marriages of higher quality."

She said: "People's expectations are higher. The things couples compromised on 10 years ago aren't tolerated today."

(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2008)

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