Sixty per cent of babies born out of wedlock

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SIX out of 10 babies born in Wigan borough are born outside of marriage and experts say this number will only rise in coming years.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 61. 2 per cent of all babies born in the borough in 2011 were born outside of marriage or a civil partnership.

This figure is far higher than the Greater Manchester average of 51.3 per cent and it is predicted that this figure will continue to rise in the future.

In Wigan, there were 3,973 births in 2011, of which 2,432 were born outside of marriage. Of these 76 births were to mothers aged under 18 and six were to women aged over 45.

Wigan’s MP Lisa Nandy believes that the figures are a sign of modern life in 21st century Britain.

She said: “I think it is perhaps a sign of the times and the days of families made up of 2.4 children have been replaced with families who come in all shapes and sizes.

“What is important from a government point of view is that all children are supported in ways that is best for them. While it is important that children have two loving parents, living arrangements are not a matter for politicians.”

The ONS explained that the change was due to a combination of socio-economic factors that encourage women to postpone childbirth.

“These trends reflect the increasing numbers of women delaying childbearing to later ages,” they said.

“This may be due to a number of factors such as increased participation in higher education, increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising opportunity costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty, housing factors and instability of partnership.”

One former children’s minister called on the government to tackle family breakdown by supporting marriage.

Tim Loughton told the Daily Telegraph without marriage, people “drift in and out of relationships very easily”.

“In families where parents break up children do less well at school, are more likely to suffer mental health problems and are more likely to have substance abuse problems,” he said.

“The government needs to send a very clear message that it supports marriage.

“That’s why married tax breaks are so important.”