A record number of Guangdong couples filed for divorce at provincial civil affairs offices last year after a new marriage law eliminated the need for workplace approval for the break-ups. An unprecedented 48,903 couples dissolved their marriages through the civil administrative agencies last year, 52 per cent more than in the previous year, according to official statistics from the province's Department of Civil Affairs. A further 23,294 couples divorced through the courts, a drop of 15.4 per cent compared with the year before. Overall, the province's divorce rate rose 21 per cent last year, mirroring the national rate announced in March by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Despite last year's huge increase, the actual divorce rate in Guangdong is still below the national average. The divorce rate in the province is 1.86 per 1,000 people a year, compared to the national level of 2.48. Legal analysts say the Marriage Registration Regulations, which took effect in October 2003, were the main reason behind the province's sharp rise in marital break-ups. The new rules make it easier and faster for a couple to dissolve their marriage because they no longer have to get certificates from their work units on which authorities based their decision. Before the reforms, the number of divorced couples in Guangdong increased marginally each year. More than 60 per cent of people who filed for divorce in Guangdong last year cited 'no-fault' reasons, including 'poor communication' and 'emotional indifference', for their marriage failure. About 20 per cent dissolved their marriages because of infidelity by their spouses and a further 20 per cent cited 'a lack of sexual satisfaction' and 'incompatible social status', according to the research. The statistics also indicated that more Guangdong women than men took the initiative in seeking divorce, with about 70 per cent of the divorce proceedings last year being brought by wives.