Household composition statistics
Data extracted in May 2020.
Planned article update: June 2021.
This article presents data on the development of households in the European Union (EU) and in the EU Member States during the last decade. It also reports on the evolution of men and women living either in a couple, alone or in another type of household at European level. Special attention is also paid to the presence of children in households.
The statistics presented in this article are based on the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), which is one of the largest European household sample surveys.
More and more households consisting of adults living alone
During the last decade i.e. 2010-2019, the total number of households in the EU increased by 7.0 %. In 2019, the EU-27 recorded 195.0 million households with on average 2.3 members per household. The largest average household size was recorded in Croatia (2.8 members), while the smallest was observed in Sweden (1.8 members), followed by Denmark, Germany, Finland and Estonia (each with 2.0 members). Between 2010 and 2019, only three EU Member States remained stable in terms of household size (namely Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands); all other EU Member States recorded a decrease in the average number of persons per household. The largest decreases since 2010 were observed in Latvia and Malta, with the average household size decreasing from 2.6 and 2.9 members respectively in 2010 to 2.2 and 2.5 members respectively in 2019.
The evolution over time shows that the composition of households is changing. As previously mentioned, the total number of households rose by 7.0 % between 2010 and 2019. However, single adult households (i.e. households consisting of only one adult, living with or without children) increased much faster, namely by 18.1 % in the same period (see Figure 2). This expansion is even more pronounced in single adult households without children (+18.7 %) (see Figure 3 for a comparison of 2010 and 2019 data by presence of children). On the other hand, households made of a couple (lawful unions or by contract), with or without children, registered a slower increase of 3.9 %. This growth is entirely due to the higher number of couples living without children. Moreover, households with two (not being a couple) or more adults, named also "other type of households" in this article (e.g. an economically independent adult child living with one or two parents, elderly person living with other members of the family, economically independent room mates), decreased by 5.7 % over the 2010-2019 period in the EU. The decrease in this type of household is even higher for households with dependent children (-14.1 %) than for those without children (-1.6 %).
Relative differences in households for men and women, young people and seniors
Looking at the increase in the adult population (see Figure 4), the development over the last decade shows different patterns according to age and sex. With regard to single adults, both men and women recorded a higher number of people living alone for all age groups in 2019 compared to 2010. The growth is higher than 10 % for all categories. Single adults increased faster than adults living in a couple or in another type of household. This last finding is observed for men and women of all age groups, except for women aged 65 and more for whom a higher increase was recorded for those living in a couple. Focusing on gender, male adults living alone also increased more steeply than female adults living alone no matter the age group. The sharpest increase in the period 2010-2019 can be found for men aged 55-64 who recorded an increase of 47.7 %. For comparison, women in the same age category recorded an increase of 23.3 % since 2010. Older men aged 65 or over and living alone were also substantially more in 2019 than in 2010, as their number increased by 34.7 %. The corresponding increase for women was 11.3 %.
In addition to these developments, differences at European level are also visible in the shares of adults living alone, in a couple or with another adult (not in a couple) or more adults (see Figure 5). Around half of adults above 15 years old live in a couple (respectively 48.2 % of women and 51.7 % of men). Almost three in ten women and men lived in another type of household (27.3 % and 29.4 %). Women living alone accounted for one fourth of the total women (24.5 %) while men living alone accounted for almost one fifth of the total male population (18.9 %).
In the context of the EU-LFS, children are considered economically dependent and are aged up to 24 years old. Considering only the adults aged between 15 and 24 years (so those economically independent), a vast majority of men (71.0 %) live with another adult (not in a couple) or more adults against 57.6 % of women. Another difference among young adults is that one in five female adults aged 15-24 live in a couple (20.1 %) while it is the case for fewer than one in ten men in this age category (8.3 %).
In the EU, 40.1 % of women aged 65 or more live alone compared with 19.4 % of men in the same category. Four out of ten women (40.0 %) and six out of ten men (63.1 %) live in a couple, most likely because women on average live longer.
Presence and number of children
In 2019, the EU recorded an increase of 10.8 % in households without children and a decrease of 1.4 % in households in which children live compared with the situation in 2010 (see Figure 6). At national level, all countries recorded an increase between 2010 and 2019 in households without children, ranging from 63.6 % in Malta, 32.1 % in Luxembourg, 26.4 % in Sweden and 25.4 % in Cyprus to 0.8 % in Bulgaria, 1.4 % in Croatia and 3.8 % in Denmark. Turkey also recorded a sharp increase (63.1 %) in households without children. Regarding households with children, the development is relatively disparate among the Member States: the number of households with children decreased in 16 EU Member States, by more than 15 % in Lithuania (-20.8 %) and Latvia (-16.4 %). It however increased in 11 EU Member States, by more than 10 % in Luxembourg and Malta (+12.2 % and +20.4 % respectively).
The 2019 distribution of households shows that the share of households in which children live can vary considerably from one country to another (see Figure 7). At European level, around three in ten households (28.8 %) include children. At the top of the scale, children were present in more than one third of households in Ireland, Poland, Romania, Cyprus, Slovakia and Portugal. At the opposite end, in Sweden, Germany and Finland, the presence of children was observed in fewer than one in four households.
More than two thirds of households with children consisted of couples (68.3 %). In some countries, it is by far the most common type of household with children: in Finland and Greece, couples represent 83.3% and 79.0 % respectively of the total households with children, while the lowest share in the EU is observed in Latvia (52.6 %). In Serbia and North Macedonia, less than half of households with children are couples (48.5 % and 41.6 %). These two candidate countries have the highest share of households consisting of two adults (not in a couple) or more adults and that include children (45.6 % in Serbia and 56.4 % in North Macedonia). They are followed by the EU Member States Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Montenegro and Turkey, where more than one third of households with children also include two adults not in a couple or more adults. At European level, these households accounted for 17.6 % of households with children, with this percentage below 10 % in Estonia, Finland, Denmark and Sweden. In these countries except Finland (i.e. Estonia, Denmark and Sweden), single parents represent more than 25 % of the households with children. In the whole European Union, single parents accounted for 14.1 % of households with children. The lowest shares of lone parents are found in Romania and Croatia, as well as in Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and North Macedonia (all recording a percentage less than 7 %).
Among households without children in the EU in 2019, almost half of them consisted of single adults (48.6 %), around one third are couples (34.7 %) and 16.7 % are households with two adults not in a couple or more adults.
Households with one child are the most common among households with children. In 2019, in the EU-27, almost half of the households with children only included one child (47.4 %). Portugal, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia showed the highest shares of households with only one child i.e. ranging between 55 % and 58 %. However, in Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands, households with one child constituted 40 % or less of households with children. This means that households with 2 children or more were most frequent in those countries (see Figure 8). At European level, four in ten households with children (39.9 %) include two children. In five EU Member States (i.e. Luxembourg, Croatia, the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden) as well as in North Macedonia and Montenegro, households with two children are the most frequent households with children. In those countries, there are more households with two children than with one child. In Ireland and Finland, more than one in five households with children (25.2 % and 20.3 % respectively) recorded 3 children or more. This is also the case in Turkey (25.9 %) and Montenegro (25.7 %). In Bulgaria (6.2 %), Portugal (6.7 %), Italy (8.1 %), Lithuania (9.0 %) and Spain (9.1 %), fewer than one in ten households with children had three children or more.
Source data for tables and graphs
Source: All statistics presented in this article are derived from the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS). The EU-LFS is the largest European household sample survey providing quarterly and annual results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over. It covers residents in private households and excludes those in collective households. Conscripts in military or community service are not included in the results. The EU-LFS is based on the same target populations and uses the same definitions in all countries, which means that the results are comparable between the countries.
Under the specific topic 'Households statistics', the EU-LFS currently covers statistics on household composition and number and size of households.
Reference period: Yearly results are obtained as averages of the four quarters in the year.
Coverage: The results from the EU-LFS currently cover all European Union Member States, the United Kingdom, the EFTA Member States of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, as well as the candidate countries Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. For Cyprus, the survey covers only the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Nevertheless, EU-LFS household data are not available for Iceland, Norway, Switzerland.
Country codes: Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), Czechia (CZ), Denmark (DK), Germany (DE), Estonia (EE), Ireland (IE), Greece (EL), Spain (ES), France (FR), Croatia (HR), Italy (IT), Cyprus (CY), Latvia (LV), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Hungary (HU), Malta (MT), the Netherlands (NL), Austria (AT), Poland (PL), Portugal (PT), Romania (RO), Slovenia (SI), Slovakia (SK), Finland (FI), Sweden (SE), the United Kingdom (UK), Iceland (IS), Norway (NO), Switzerland (CH), Montenegro (ME), North Macedonia (MK), Serbia (RS) and Turkey (TR). European aggregates: EU refers to the sum of EU-27 Member States. If data are unavailable for a country, the calculation of the corresponding aggregates takes into account the data for the same country for the most recent period available. Such cases are indicated.
Definition: A child is defined as a household member aged less than 25 years and in full social and economic dependence from other household member/-s (parents / adults).
In addition to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the EU-Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) is also a source of household statistics. The EU-SILC is a multi-purpose instrument which focuses mainly on income. However, information on housing conditions, social exclusion, labour and education is also collected.
- Labour Force Survey, see:
- LFS series - specific topic(t_lfst)
- Number of persons in households (tsdpc510)
- LFS series -Specific topics (lfst)
- Households statistics - LFS series (lfst_hh)
- Population by household composition and number of children or age of youngest child (lfst_hh_p)
- Employment by household composition (lfst_hh_e)
- Employment by number of children and age of youngest child (lfst_hh_k)
- Working status within households (lfst_hh_s)
- Number and size of households (lfst_hh_n)
- Households statistics - LFS series (lfst_hh)
- Living conditions (ilc_lv)
- Private households (ilc_lvph)],
- Average household size (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph01)
- Distribution of households by household type from 2003 onwards (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph02)
- Distribution of households by household size (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph03)
- Distribution of households by household type and income level (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph04)
- Distribution of households with children by number of children (source: EU-SILC) (ilc_lvph05)
- Private households (ilc_lvph)],
- Population (pop), see:
- Census - time series of selected indicators (cens_hn)
- Housing (cens_hnhsng)
- Households by size (number of persons) (cens_hndwsize)
- Housing (cens_hnhsng)