Female-headed households are households where either no adult males are present, owing to divorce, separation, migration, non-marriage, or widowhood; or where the men, although present, do not contribute to the household income, because of illness or disability, alcoholism, and so on.
In many countries today, income generated by women is vital for family survival. The number of female-headed households has considerably increased, thus challenging the traditional assumption that the "head of household" is a role to be occupied by a man. Women provide the main source of income in some 30 per cent of all households worldwide. This new reality has to be taken into consideration in modifying, in particular, social security provisions (on pensions, unemployment benefits and family allowances) to ensure that the needs of this group are met. The concept of female-headed households should also be included in national labour statistics to allow the number and proportion of this type of household to be identified.
To a larger extent than for households headed by men, female-headed households run the risk of poverty. The reasons are that they have less access to well-paid jobs, assets, credit, education and vocational training; the lack of an enabling environment such as sufficient childcare facilities is also an important factor.
→ see also Housework and Social security/social protection
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