Saturday, April 14, 2012

Qatari Marriage Statistics

The newspaper reported some interesting statistics the other day from a new study, "Marriages & Divorces, State of Qatar, 2010 (Review and Analysis)" by the Qatar Statistics Authority.

Apparently the marriage rate has dropped significantly in the last decade, from 34.9 to 24.1 for men (per 1,000 men) and 32.2 to 23.4 for women. Essentially decreases of around 25-35%! Nothing to be too alarmed about though - for comparison this recent article notes the UK rate is 8.7, this website has the US rate at 6.8, a government study shows Japan at 5.5, and in Canada it's gotten to the point where the government is not going to bother tracking it anymore (I can see why - an internet search showed in 2004 the rate was a mere 4.6! Still above the EU average though). The study attributes the decline in Qatar to the “high level of women's education and their strong access to the labor market, as well as high cost of marriage”.

Now there are some slight differences between the numbers, for example the Qatari numbers includes people aged 15 and above where other countries tend to use anywhere from 16-18, but even if you adjusted for that the differences between Qatar and the West are huge.

I'm not surprised there is such a large difference. If you recall marriages in Qatar are arranged and it is expected that a man will get married anywhere around age 22 to 27. I believe it is rare to find a Qatari man over the age of 30 who has never been married. Compare that to the West where lots of people never get married.

I find it interesting that the study feels the marriage rate is declining due to the expense of getting married (I believe it, click on my “Qatari Weddings” category to get an idea how much weddings cost) and because women were delaying marriage due to university and work. End result -- she wants to delay marriage because of education and he wants to delay marriage so he can save up for it (in Qatar the groom is supposed to pay for the wedding). I think there might be another factor as well, declining birth rates. Most of my Qatari friends come from families of around five children whereas I think not so long ago the average family size was even bigger than that. If birthrates have been declining over the last 30 years or so then there will be fewer people in their 20s then there were 10 years ago.

Now for my favorite statistic -- how many Qatari men who got married in 2010 already had one or more wives? Muslim men are allowed to have up to four wives, but how many in Qatar actually do? (Make a guess and then scroll down)

It turns out that 93.9% of men who got married in 2010 had no other wives. 5.5% already had one wife, and 0.5% already had two or three wives. So only about 6% of Qatari men have more than one wife.

So was it close to your guess? I thought polygamy would be a more common than that. Clearly even when allowed to have multiple wives most men are fine with one. I think Westerners just assume that it is a lot more common. Maybe in the past it was.

The study also tracked how many marriages were between first cousins, as well as between second cousins. Cousin marriage is acceptable in Islam and in many Muslim countries quite common (I believe in some areas of Central Asia it can be greater than 50%). This of course can create genetic problems, not so much from one first cousin marriage, but if the cousins were more closely related because parents or grandparents were also first cousins then the chance for genetic problems increases dramatically. In Qatar genetic screening is done if the couple is even distantly related.

It turns out that 26% of the Qatari marriages in 2010 were between first cousins, and an additional 21% was between second cousins. Unfortunately the statistics do not tell us whether the rate has changed over time. I suspect the rate has gone down a bit but that is only from anecdotal evidence based on discussions with my Qatari friends, many of whom told their families they do not want to marry a first cousin.

The Qatar Statistics Authority does publish some interesting stuff, I suggest that anyone really wanting to learn a lot about Qatar look at some of the studies they have done. You can learn a lot about the population this way.


Anonymous said...

You left out another interesting statistic about Qatari marriages: that is the number of divorces that take place very early on, before the couple even lives together as man and wife (ie, the marriage is consummated). As I recall it's something like 1/3 of the divorces. Effectively the couple only really starts the process of getting to know each other (what would constitute "dating" in the West) after the contracts are filed. A large number of these matches apparently do no proceed to the actual wedding celebration, but are still counted in the divorce rate.

Anonymous said...

Remember that in Islam, in order to have a second wife, the husband must be financially capable of treating them equally (not in love, but in other aspects, which in Qatar means setting up additional household(s)). Something most men, even those of more than modest means, would find difficult.

scaryazeri said...

I also heard, not sure whether it is true, that it is considered bad taste to have more than one wife-unless you are very rich and important, in which case that is totally ok. But for normal people it is supposed to be a bit common.

Glen McKay said...

Hi scaryazeri, I spoke to some Qatari friends and the comment above yours gets to the heart of the matter. It is not considered bad taste to have more than one wife, it is considered bad taste to have more than one wife and not support them sufficiently. This means if you were supporting your first wife/family with a certain level of income you should not reduce that level of income to her because you want to share it with a second wife. The man should be earning more money so that both wives have the same level of income.

Anonymous said...

4 yrs and 5 months in a relationship of a qatari man. As we both know we stayed together because of love end up into tears, his getting married this year. And i myself doesn't wanna object to his decision for one reason. Im filipina and his qatari. We will not have a normal lofe together its gonna be against all odds, as he belong to a good family here. Looking at the other side of it, its actually good for me and him to move forward with each others life, separately. This reality hurts. But i keep the hope in my head he might marry me as second wife. For what you were discussing above, there so many valid reason why some qatari men are having more than just one wife.