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17 Sep 2018

Household Composition Around the World

Not all household are the same, with vast differences between household size and composition around the world. According to the latest 'Database of Household Size and Composition' report from the United Nations, the average household size ranges from less than three people to more than six depending on where you live. While rising living standards across the world have led to a decrease in household size over the last few years, an ageing global population is creating additional household stress in some countries.

In the report, a household is defined as "a group of persons who make common provision of food, shelter and other essentials for living." As you might expect, smaller average household sizes were recorded in Europe and North America, with larger households of five or more people more likely in Africa and the Middle East. Asia was somewhere in the middle, with India having a majority of homes with 4-5 people and China having a majority with 2-3 people.

Afghanistan had the largest household size, with almost 80 percent of homes having six people of more. Iraq was second at almost 70 percent, followed by Senegal, Gambia, Pakistan, Yemen, Tajikistan, Maldives, Palestine, and South Sudan. At the other end of the list were a number of rich European nations, with almost 40 percent of people in the Netherlands living in a single person household and just over 80 percent living in a home with three people or less.

Italy had the second smallest household size in the world, followed by Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Estonia, and Czechia. You had to get out of the bottom ten to find a non-European nation, with South Korea in 12th, Japan in 26th, and Canada in 27th. Australia had the 30th smallest household size in the world, with New Zealand recording the 40th.

The average size of households has fallen over the last few years, as has the share of households that contain children. Kids are much more likely in households across Asia and Africa, where more than 80 percent of homes include at least one child below 15 years of age. The situation is dramatically different in Europe, where less than 30 percent of households contain kids. Despite the rise in divorce figures across the western world, almost 75 percent of global households with children include two parents.

Population ageing is also having a significant effect on household composition, especially in Europe and North America where more than 15 percent of the population are aged 60 years or over. African nations have the most youthful populations, with the vast majority of African countries having a population of 5 percent or less of people aged 60 and over. The co-residence of children with older people is also more likely in Africa and Asia, with multi-generational housing a reality for almost 1/3 of all households in Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea.  


Image source: Ekaterina Kamenetsky/Shutterstock