THE LAND OF MY MOTHERS!; Latest Statistics Reveal How Women Are Taking over Wales

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WALES is becoming a woman's world, stunning new statistics have revealed. Today, we show you the facts that prove that Welsh women are coming into their own - they're charging ahead with their careers and rejecting marriage and motherhood until later in life. They're living longer than Welsh men and taking better care of their health, too. Teenage girls are working harder at school than ever before, and two-thirds of students going on to further education are female. But there's a downside to this new empowerment, with more women getting into crime - especially motoring offences. These are the figures, released this week by the National Assembly as part of its 2001 Digest of Welsh Statistics, that show why the future in Wales is female. JENNIE BIBBINGS reports

MARRIAGE Fewer women are marrying before their 24th birthday. . . If you were a single 24-year-old girl only a few decades ago you'd be called a spinster - not any more. Numbers of women saying "I do" before they reach 24 are down to a trickle - 3,217 in 1999, compared with 9,568 in 1989. More women are marrying after their 30th birthday. . . Chances are, if you're a bride in Wales these days you're a thirtysomething. In 1989, there were 5,128 women marrying over the age of 30, but by last year that figure had risen to 6,342. Fewer people overall in Wales are getting married. . Gone are the days when all a woman wanted was a ring on her finger - the number of wedding ceremonies in Wales is at an all-time low. In 1999, 14,025 ceremonies took place, compared with 19,453 10 years before.

FAMILY Fewer women are having babies. . . The number of babies being born in Wales today is lower than ever - in fact, last year more people died in Wales than were born. The birth rate for 2000 was just 54.8 per 1,000 women, compared with 65.4 10 years ago. Fewer Welsh teenagers are getting pregnant. . . Wales has long been branded the teen pregnancy capital of western Europe, but these new stats show that Welsh teen girls are wising up - last year, 106 girls under 16 had babies, compared with 141 five years ago. Women are leaving it later to have children. . . The numbers of women having kids between the ages of 16 and 29 are plummeting - 18,741 last year compared with 25,161 in 1993. But at the same time more Welsh women aged 35 and over are starting a family, with 4,228 women over 35 giving birth last year, compared with 3,238 in 1993. More births than ever are taking place outside marriage. . . Welsh women no longer believe that if you want to be a mam, you need a man - in 1993, 35.2 per cent of all babies were illegitimate, but by last year that figure had shot up to 45.2 per cent.

HEALTH Women are living longer than men. . . Welsh women can expect to live, on average, five years longer than Welsh blokes. And we've got more female OAPs than male - today in Wales there are 17,000 women aged over 90, and only 4,500 men over 90 years old. Cancer kills more men than women. . . It's a sad fact that more Welsh men die of cancer every year than women. Because there are more females than males in Wales, the death toll for women is always higher, but still last year 4,251 men lost their lives to cancer, compared with 4,052 women. More men commit suicide. . . Men in Wales are much more likely to kill themselves than females - last year 234 men and 63 women committed suicide. Most of the men were in the 2534 age bracket while the majority of the women were middleaged, between 45 and 54. Women eat more healthily than men. . . While men are more likely to be seen sweating it out at the gym, women in Wales are much better at watching what they put in their bodies. Men eat more sugar and use more artery-clogging solid cooking fat; women munch on more fresh fruit and veg, wholemeal bread and skimmed milk. Men are heavier boozers than women. . . While the number of women drinkers is up generally, they don't take it to extremes like Welsh blokes are famed for doing. …