1. Home
  2. Life insurance
  3. World Family Report

World Family Report

The notion of a ‘typical’ family is different depending on where you come from, and family units can be extremely varied around the world.

What’s considered the norm in one place may seem totally out of the ordinary in others. So, how does the picture of the ‘normal’ family look in OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations when we consider factors such as household sizes, workplace practices and government policies?

No matter where you’re raising a family, you want to do your best to look after them. That’s why it’s so important to find the right life insurance policy to help protect your family when you’re gone.

Family sitting and laughing on a sofa at home

 

Global average family size

Report showing average family size of Mexico and Sweden

Countries with the biggest families - Mexico (3.93 people)

The nation where the average family is the largest is Mexico, with just under 4 people per household. That’s around 50% higher than the OECD average of 2.46.

Countries with the smallest families - Sweden (1.80 people)

On the other hand, the average Swedish family is less than half the size, with an average of just 1.80 people.

While Sweden is considered a good place to raise a family, many young Swedes fly the nest younger than in other countries and choose to live alone. This is partially a cultural difference, but it’s made easier due to Sweden’s strong welfare state and access to affordable housing.

The 10 countries with the biggest families

Rank Country Average family size
1
Mexico
3.93
2
Turkey
3.50
3
Costa Rica
3.46
4
Israel
3.32
5
Slovakia
2.80
5
Croatia
2.80
7
Republic of Ireland
2.70
7
South Korea
2.70
7
Poland
2.70
7
Cyprus
2.70
7
Malta
2.70
7
Romania
2.70

The 10 countries with the smallest families

Rank Country Average family size
1
Sweden
1.80
2
Denmark
2.00
2
Germany
2.00
2
Norway
2.00
5
Finland
2.10
6
Austria
2.20
6
Estonia
2.20
6
Netherlands
2.20
6
Switzerland
2.20
6
Bulgaria
2.20
6
Lithuania
2.20
 

Average percentage of single-parent households

Report showing the percentage of single parent households in Lativia and Japan

Countries with the most single parents - Latvia (11.50%)

Single-parent families are in the minority across the world, but the nation with the most is Latvia, where they make up 11.5% of households. It’s perhaps not surprising then, that Latvia also has a relatively high divorce rate, at 2.70 per 1,000 people each year.

Countries with the fewest single parents - Japan (2.63%)

On the other hand, just 2.63% of households in Japan are single parents. Single parents in Japan get less support than in many Western nations. Joint custody isn’t allowed in the country, as courts take the view that children should stay in one place of residence.

It also has the lowest number of single fathers of OECD countries, with just 0.27% of households being headed by a sole father.

The 10 countries with the most single parents

Rank Country Single mothers Single fathers Total % of single parent households
1
Latvia
9.97%
1.53%
11.50%
2
New Zealand
..
..
11.23%
3
Costa Rica
9.49%
1.06%
10.55%
4
Australia
..
..
10.45%
5
Canada
..
..
10.33%
6
Mexico
..
..
10.26%
7
Lithuania
8.30%
1.34%
9.64%
8
United States
7.17%
2.39%
9.56%
9
South Korea
7.19%
2.01%
9.20%
10
Iceland
7.98%
1.06%
9.04%

The 10 countries with the fewest single parents

Rank Country Single mothers Single fathers Total single parent households
1
Japan
2.36%
0.27%
2.63%
2
Greece
3.55%
0.68%
4.23%
3
Switzerland
3.76%
0.64%
4.40%
4
Bulgaria
3.71%
0.99%
4.70%
5
Cyprus
4.29%
0.49%
4.78%
6
Croatia
4.12%
0.82%
4.94%
7
Italy
4.47%
0.92%
5.39%
8
Germany
4.72%
0.77%
5.49%
9
Netherlands
4.65%
0.90%
5.55%
10
Romania
4.27%
1.40%
5.67%
 

Average percentage of couple households

Report showing the percentage of unmarried couples in a household in Israel and Lativia

Countries with the most couple households - Israel (66.60%)

In Israel almost exactly two-thirds of households are made up of couples, whether married or unmarried, with just a third of people living alone.

Mexico has the highest number of couples with children (44.96%), while those in Portugal are most likely to live together but not have children (32.28%).

Countries with the fewest couple households - Latvia (39.38%)

Latvia is the country where couples are least likely to live together, with 39.38%, which could be due to Latvia having one of Europe’s highest divorce rates.

Japan has the fewest couples who are parents, with just 16.62%, while those in Mexico are least likely to live together without children (8.61%).

The 10 countries with the most couple households

Rank Country Couple households - with children Couple households - without children Total % of couple households
1
Israel
44.90%
21.70%
66.60%
2
Cyprus
34.61%
30.75%
65.36%
3
Portugal
31.29%
32.28%
63.57%
4
Malta
33.33%
28.65%
61.98%
5
Spain
30.38%
29.89%
60.27%
6
Mexico
49.96%
8.61%
58.57%
7
Greece
27.87%
30.59%
58.46%
8
Republic of Ireland
32.70%
24.47%
57.17%
9
New Zealand
28.93%
28.13%
57.06%
10
Australia
31.03%
25.92%
56.95%

The 10 countries with the fewest couple households

Rank Country Couple households - with children Couple households - without children Total % of couple households
1
Latvia
19.89%
19.49%
39.38%
2
Slovakia
23.17%
18.31%
41.48%
3
Estonia
21.02%
22.66%
43.68%
4
Slovenia
23.16%
22.21%
45.37%
5
Japan
16.62%
30.15%
46.77%
6
Czech Republic
22.19%
25.73%
47.92%
7
Iceland
29.61%
18.75%
48.36%
8
United States
20.21%
28.21%
48.42%
9
Norway
25.35%
23.15%
48.50%
10
Finland
20.50%
28.93%
49.43%
 

Average percentage of births outside marriage

Report showing births outside of marriage in Chile and South Korea

Countries with the most births outside marriage - Chile (73.70%)

The number of children who are born outside of marriage varies considerably around the globe, with over 70% percentage points separating the countries at either extreme.

Those in Chile are most likely to be born while their parents are unmarried, with 73.70% falling into this category.

Countries with the fewest births outside marriage - South Korea (2.20%)

On the other hand, a tiny number of children are born in South Korea outside of marriage, at just 2.2%. This is followed closely by neighbouring Japan, at 2.3%.

Marriage is highly valued in South Korea, which is likely why so few children are born outside of wedlock.

The 10 countries with the most births outside marriage

Rank Country Births outside of marriage
1
Chile
73.70%
2
Costa Rica
71.80%
3
Iceland
70.50%
4
Mexico
69.30%
5
France
60.40%
6
Bulgaria
58.50%
7
Slovenia
57.70%
8
Norway
56.40%
9
Portugal
55.90%
10
Sweden
54.50%

The 10 countries with the fewest births outside marriage

Rank Country Births outside of marriage
1
South Korea
2.20%
2
Japan
2.30%
3
Turkey
2.90%
4
Israel
7.50%
5
Greece
11.10%
6
Cyprus
20.30%
7
Croatia
20.70%
8
Switzerland
25.70%
9
Malta
25.90%
10
Lithuania
26.40%
10
Poland
26.40%
 

Average percentage of families without children

Report showing families without children in Spain and Turkey

Countries with the most families without children - Spain (21.60% of women aged 40-44)

Spain has the highest rate of women without children (21.60% of women aged 40-44).

As in many countries, the average age of the Spanish population is increasing, with many choosing to have children later in life.

Countries with the fewest families without children - Turkey (4.50% of women aged 40-44)

On the other hand, the number of women without children in Turkey is low, at just 4.50%. In 2016, Turkey’s president made some controversial comments about families in the country, stating that mothers should have at least 3 children.

Turkey is followed by South Korea, where 6.80% of women aged 40-44 have no children, and Slovenia, with 7.00%.

The 10 countries with the most families without children

Rank Country Women aged 40-44 without children
1
Spain
21.60%
2
Austria
21.54%
3
UK (England and Wales)
20.00%
4
Finland
19.89%
5
Republic of Ireland
19.00%
6
Canada
18.94%
7
United States
18.80%
8
Australia
16.00%
9
Luxembourg
15.42%
10
New Zealand
15.00%

The 10 countries with the fewest families without children

Rank Country Women aged 40-44 without children
1
Turkey
4.50%
2
South Korea
6.78%
3
Slovenia
7.00%
4
Czech Republic
7.10%
5
Chile
7.72%
6
Lithuania
8.40%
7
Mexico
8.55%
8
Latvia
8.70%
9
Croatia
9.40%
10
Slovakia
10.00%
 

Average percentage of mothers in work

Report showing maternal employment rate in Iceland and Turkey

Countries with the most mothers in work - Iceland (86.70%)

Iceland is the country where mothers are most likely to get back into the workplace, with 86.70% of mums being employed. This includes mothers who work part-time, as well as those that are full-time. Unsurprisingly, this could be because the country offers good support to new mothers, with 12 months of maternity leave.

In some countries, mothers are far more likely to work part-time, such as in Switzerland, where 62.50% of mums do so. On the other hand, Slovenia has the highest number of full-time working mothers, at 79.70%.

Countries with the fewest mothers in work - Turkey (30.00%)

Turkey has the fewest mothers in employment, with just 30.00% of women with children being in work.

With Turkey generally having a high number of children, this makes it harder for women to get back into the workforce.

When we look at the full-time to part-time breakdown, Switzerland has the fewest full-time working mothers (15.20%) with most choosing to go part-time.

The 10 countries with the most mothers in work

Rank Country Maternal employment rate - part-time Maternal employment rate - full-time Maternal employment rate - no information on hours Total
1
Iceland
12.60%
74.10%
..
86.70%
2
Slovenia
6.90%
79.70%
0.00%
86.60%
3
Sweden
8.50%
76.70%
0.80%
86.00%
4
Portugal
5.70%
75.70%
2.30%
83.70%
5
Denmark
9.10%
72.50%
0.10%
81.70%
6
Lithuania
4.80%
74.00%
2.00%
80.80%
7
Netherlands
50.00%
30.10%
0.00%
80.10%
8
Latvia
5.80%
71.90%
0.60%
78.30%
9
Switzerland
62.50%
15.20%
..
77.70%
9
Austria
41.80%
35.80%
0.10%
77.70%

The 10 countries with the fewest mothers in work

Rank Country Maternal employment rate - part-time Maternal employment rate - full-time Maternal employment rate - no information on hours Total
1
Turkey
8.50%
21.50%
..
30.00%
2
Mexico
17.60%
29.00%
..
46.60%
3
Costa Rica
18.60%
33.60%
..
52.20%
4
South Korea
..
..
..
57.00%
5
Italy
20.60%
36.70%
0.20%
57.50%
6
Chile
11.60%
47.70%
0.00%
59.30%
7
Greece
9.30%
50.50%
0.00%
59.80%
8
Slovakia
5.00%
54.70%
2.10%
61.80%
9
Hungary
3.40%
58.00%
2.10%
63.50%
10
Czech Republic
6.10%
60.80%
0.10%
67.00%
 

Average length of parental leave by country

Reporting parental leave in Romania and United States

Countries with the best parental leave - Romania (97.10 weeks at full rate)

Parental leave is slightly harder to compare. For example, some countries offer new parents more leave, but at a smaller fraction of their usual pay.

The country that offers both mothers and fathers the longest period of fully-paid leave is Romania, at 92.40 weeks for mums and 4.70 for dads, a combined 97.10 weeks. 92.40 weeks is also the longest average maternal leave.

On the other hand, Japan offers the greatest paternity leave, at a full-rate equivalent of 31.40 weeks.

Countries with the worst parental leave - United States (0 weeks at full rate)

The country with the worst parental leave is the United States. It’s one of the few countries that has no paid parental leave.

While those who work for companies with more than 50 employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, this doesn’t extend to everyone.

Those working for smaller companies have no legal right to parental leave (although some states do have their own rules).

This period of 12 weeks of unpaid leave does extend to fathers as well as mothers, although few take it up, with the average paternity period being just 10 days.

The 10 countries with the best parental leave

Rank Country Mothers average payment rate (%) Mothers full-rate equivalent (weeks) Fathers average payment rate (%) Fathers full-rate equivalent (weeks) Combined full-rate equivalent (weeks)
1
Romania
0.85
92.40
0.88
4.70
97.10
2
Estonia
1.00
82.00
1.00
2.00
84.00
3
Bulgaria
0.61
67.50
0.90
1.90
69.40
4
Slovakia
0.42
69.20
0.00
0.00
69.20
5
Japan
0.62
35.80
0.60
31.40
67.20
6
Hungary
0.41
65.80
1.00
1.00
66.80
7
Luxembourg
0.85
39.20
0.76
21.20
60.40
8
Slovenia
1.00
52.10
1.00
4.30
56.40
9
Czech Republic
0.74
55.40
0.59
0.60
56.00
10
Norway
0.46
39.90
0.96
14.30
54.20

The 10 countries with the worst parental leave

Rank Country Mothers average payment rate (%) Mothers full-rate equivalent (weeks) Fathers average payment rate (%) Fathers full-rate equivalent (weeks) Combined full-rate equivalent (weeks)
1
United States
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
2
Republic of Ireland
0.27
7.60
0.14
0.50
8.10
3
Switzerland
0.58
8.20
0.00
0.00
8.20
4
Australia
0.42
7.60
0.42
0.80
8.40
5
New Zealand
0.48
10.40
0.00
0.00
10.40
6
United Kingdom
0.30
11.60
0.19
0.40
12.00
7
Mexico
1.00
12.00
1.00
1.00
13.00
8
Cyprus
0.72
13.00
0.72
1.40
14.40
9
Israel
1.00
15.00
0.00
0.00
15.00
10
Malta
0.86
15.40
1.00
0.20
15.60
 

Public family policies by country

Report showing the family policy score in Norway and Republic of Ireland

Countries with the best public family policies - Norway (8.15 out of 10)

Ranking each country on a number of government policies, such as spending on family benefits and education, it’s Norway that comes out on top. Norway spends 4.8% of its GDP on education, second only to Israel, with other benefits including free healthcare and access to public schools and higher education.

Countries with the worst public family policies - Republic of Ireland (1.05 out of 10)

However, it’s the Republic of Ireland that fares the worst when compared on these same factors.

Ireland is the second-worst when it comes to spending on both education (2.3%) and early education and care (0.3%).

The 10 countries with the best public family policies

Rank Country Public spending on family benefits (% of GDP) Public spending on education (% of GDP) Total family benefits for a two-child, single-parent family (% of earnings) Public spending on early childhood education & care Family policy score /10
1
Norway
3.35%
4.70%
12.90%
1.40%
8.15
2
Sweden
3.40%
4.00%
14.40%
1.60%
8.07
3
Iceland
3.27%
4.60%
8.40%
1.80%
7.58
4
Denmark
3.40%
3.40%
17.00%
1.30%
7.50
4
France
3.60%
3.70%
12.60%
1.30%
7.50
6
Finland
2.87%
3.60%
16.90%
1.10%
6.94
7
New Zealand
2.46%
4.50%
13.70%
1.00%
6.69
8
United Kingdom
3.23%
4.10%
18.40%
0.60%
6.61
9
Belgium
3.15%
4.10%
10.50%
0.80%
6.21
10
Germany
3.17%
3.00%
29.00%
0.70%
6.13
10
Estonia
3.00%
3.10%
23.70%
0.80%
6.13

The 10 countries with the worst public family policies

Rank Country Public spending on family benefits (% of GDP) Public spending on education (% of GDP) Total family benefits for a two-child, single-parent family (% of earnings) Public spending on early childhood education & care Family policy score /10
1
Republic of Ireland
1.62%
2.40%
7.10%
0.30%
1.05
2
Turkey
0.49%
3.40%
0.00%
0.20%
1.21
3
Spain
1.31%
3.00%
2.20%
0.50%
1.45
4
United States
1.08%
3.50%
0.60%
0.30%
1.61
5
Czech Republic
2.92%
2.90%
5.80%
0.40%
2.66
6
Portugal
1.69%
3.80%
7.20%
0.40%
3.07
7
Austria
2.62%
3.00%
10.50%
0.50%
3.31
8
Italy
2.47%
3.20%
10.00%
0.50%
3.47
9
Japan
1.79%
2.60%
14.60%
0.70%
3.55

Louise Thomas, life insurance expert at Confused.com comments:

“The typical family size and composition varies around the world. There are many factors that can influence the size and structure of families across countries, such as government policies, workplace practices, social norms and cultural patterns.

“In general, European countries have smaller families than elsewhere in the world. For example, Sweden has the smallest average global family size, with an average of 1.8 people per family. Whereas Mexico has the largest average global family size with just under 4 people per household (3.93 people), over double that of Sweden.

“If you’re thinking of starting your own family then it’s important to consider a life insurance policy to secure your family's future in the event of your death. Life insurance financially protects your family by offering money to help with the mortgage, rent and everyday living expenses after your death.”

Methodology