Close to two-thirds of the births in Bulgaria in 2016 were out of wedlock, putting the country in second place – jointly with Slovenia – among European Union countries in babies born outside marriage, according to figures released by EU statistics agency Eurostat on April 16.
Like several EU countries, Bulgaria has seen a significant rise in babies born out of wedlock in the years between 1986 and 2016.
In Bulgaria in 1986, just less than 11 per cent of births were outside marriage. Ten years later, the figure had risen to 28.1 per cent, in the year 2000 to 38.4 per cent, and in 2006 to just more than half of all births. In 2016, the figure reached 58.6 per cent.
More than 5.1 million babies were born in the EU in 2016, Eurostat said.
In eight of the 28 EU countries, most babies were born outside marriage, while in eight other member states two-thirds of babies were born to married parents in 2016.
With six in every 10 babies born to unmarried parents, France had the largest proportion (59.7 per cent) of live births outside marriage in the EU in 2016. France was closely followed by Bulgaria and Slovenia (both 58.6 per cent).
More than half of births also occurred outside marriage in Estonia (56.1 per cent), Sweden (54.9 per cent), Denmark (54 per cent), Portugal (52.8 per cent) and the Netherlands (50.4 per cent).
In contrast, fewer than one in 10 babies were born to unmarried parents in Greece (9.4 per cent).
Births outside marriage also accounted for a quarter or fewer of all babies born in Croatia (18.9 per cent), Cyprus (19.1 per cent) and Poland (25 per cent), and for less than a third of babies born in Lithuania (27.4 per cent), Italy (28 per cent), Romania (31.3 per cent) and Malta (31.8 per cent).
Compared with the situation in 2000, the proportion of live births outside marriage rose in all member states, albeit to different extents, Eurostat said.
On the one hand, the proportion of babies born out of wedlock has grown significantly in Mediterranean EU member states.
It has increased eightfold in Cyprus (from 2.3 per cent in 2000 to 19.1 per cent in 2016). It has tripled in Malta (from 10.6 per cent to 31.8 per cent) and Italy (from 9.7 per cent to 28 per cent), while it is now about 2.5 times higher in Spain (from 17.7 per cent to 45.9 per cent), Greece (from 4.0 per cent to 9.4 per cent) and in another southern member state: Portugal (from 22.2 per cent to 52.8 per cent).
On the other hand, the proportion of live births outside marriage remained relatively stable between 2000 and 2016 in northern Europe, notably in the Nordic EU countries (Sweden, Finland and Denmark), in Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as in the Baltic member states (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania).
(Photo: Peter Eastern)