Recent official figures suggest that fewer Egyptians are getting married and even fewer are opting for divorce because they cannot afford a home.

 

Published on Saturday, a study by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) says 452,000 Egyptians got married in 2002, down from 458,000 in 2001 and 592,000 in 2000.

 

Even divorces showed a downward trend, with 63,000 separations registered in 2002, compared to 70,000 in 2001.

 

Sociologists blamed the declining numbers on Egypt's economic crisis and the lack of affordable housing.

 

To get married couples need the privacy of a home. Divorcing couples also need separate homes when they break up.

 

With housing in short supply, younger Egyptians are staying longer with parents. Couples also prefer to stay trapped in unhappy marriages rather than being homeless.

 

The declining marriage and divorce rates are however in contrast to Egypt's burgeoning population.

 

CAPMAS said the country's population was increasing at an annual rate of 1.3 million people and hit 70 million in 2003.