From female-headed households among the total numbers of

From the policy perspective, one notable change in family formation and

structure is the increasing number of households headed by single persons,

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particularly women. Female headship is common in many parts of the world and

its prevalence is growing in many societies, both in the developed and the

developing regions. The percentage of female-headed households among the

total numbers of households ranges from less than 5 per cent in Kuwait and

Pakistan to 45 per cent in Botswana and Barbados. A great diversity in the

prevalence of female-headed household is also observed in each region of the

world. Around 1980, both in Latin America and in Africa, the proportion of

female headed households ranged from 10 to over 40 per cent. In Asia, the

figures vary within a narrower range at a lower level. No Asian country

reports more than 20 per cent of their households to be headed by women. In

the developed countries, during the same period the range of female-headed

households varied from 16 per cent in Spain to 38 per cent in Norway. The

chance for formerly married women (widowed, divorced or separated) to become

household heads is much higher than for single or married women everywhere in

the world. The female headship rates for widowed and divorced/separated women

were somewhat higher among the developed countries, where 60 to 80 per cent of

those women were household heads. The corresponding figures for Latin

American countries fall in the range of 40-60 per cent. Although the

available data refer only to a limited number of African and Asian countries,

the headship rates for formerly married women greatly varies within the

regions. These trends are seen as signs of the vitality and resilience that

the family as an institution has shown despite the many pressures and

challenges it has faced. New forms of family life are developing to meet the

challenges of the modern world.


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