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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 13:57 GMT
New count halves China divorces
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China has discovered the truth behind its worryingly high divorce rate - a statistical inconsistency.

For years, the country's official divorce rate has been calculated on the basis of the number of people divorced, the China Daily newspaper reports.

Now Chinese statisticians have decided to follow the international practice of counting the number of actual divorces, and seen its divorce rate cut in half.

The 2005 rate fell from 2.76 divorces per 1,000 people to 1.38.

Once rare

The inconsistency came to light thanks to Xu Anqi, a researcher for the Marriage and Family Institute at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

She had been lobbying various governmental departments of the necessity to correct the problem since the 1990s.

"Based on the wrong statistics, many sensational research reports came out," she was quoted as saying.

With the old calculation, China's divorce rate was higher than that of Japan and South Korea, and close to the US, where the rate is 3.7 divorces per 1,000 people.

Divorce in China used to be rare.

Until 2003, separating couples needed permission from their work unit to divorce, and this was rarely granted.

But economic reforms have brought rapid social change, making divorce more common.

According to the China Daily, 1.6 million people divorced in 2006.

Under the new calculations, that equates to 1.3 divorces for every 1,000 people.

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