Indicator description: Household type

Introduction

The ILO and UN-Women joined forces to produce a new international database with novel indicators which allow us to study the impact of family life on labour market participation. In particular, the data show how the labour force participation of women and men aged 25 to 54 varies according to whether they live alone, with a partner or with kids. This is a description of the methodology for these indicators.

Concepts and definitions

For classifying households by characteristics, both a household identifier and a variable that describes the relationship of each household member to the household head must be present in the survey microdata. These are cross tabulated with other variables like sex and labour force status to produce labour market indicators.

Household types include: one-person households, households made up of a couple without children, households made up of a couple and children, lone-parent households, and households including extended family. The definition of each of these types of household is detailed below. The indicators do not investigate households where there are members who are non-relatives of the head of household or their spouse, or households where the relationship to the head of household is unknown for some members. Households where this is the case are left out of the indicators and the reference totals used.

Prime-age labour force participation rate by sex and household type

This indicator provides labour force participation rates (the sum of employed and unemployed divided by the population) for prime-age persons (aged 25 to 54) by sex and the type of household in which they live. Persons living alone (one-person households), households made up of a couple without children, households made up of a couple with children or in lone-parent households are subject to the additional restriction that they must be the ‘head of household’ or ‘spouse of the head of household’. In extended-family households, they may be any prime-age household member.

Given the restriction to only household heads and spouses, in households made up of a couple with children and in lone-parent households, prime-age women and men can be interpreted as mothers and fathers. In the case of one-person households and households of couples without children, this further restriction is trivial because – as outlined below – the members of these households are necessarily heads of households or spouses.

Once grouped by sex and household type, the total number of individuals in each group who are in the labour force (employed or unemployed) is calculated and divided by the total population of the group. This yields a labour force participation rate for each group. The following sections explain the construction of household types under aggregate and detailed classifications.

Household type

The types of households are classified as follows:

  • One person: These households have only one member who is listed as the “household head” under the household relationship variable.
  • Couple without children: These households have two members. One member is listed as the “household head” and the other is listed as the “spouse of head”, or other indicator of union with the head, under the household relationship variable.
  • Couple with children: These households have three or more members. One member is listed as the “household head”, one member is listed as the “spouse of head” and at least one member is listed as a “child of head”. In these households, a child is only defined by their relationship to the head of household (i.e. being a child here is regardless of age). There can also be multiple children. These households necessarily have a household head, their spouse (or partner) and children.
  • Lone parent: These households have two or more members. One member is listed as the “household head” and at least one member is listed as a “child of head”. In these households a child is only defined by their relationship to the head of household (i.e. being a child here is regardless of age). There can also be multiple children. These households always only have a head of household and the children of the head.
  • Extended family: These households have two or more members. One member is listed as the “household head” and at least one member is listed as a relative of the household head other than “spouse of head” or “child of head”. These households may contain heads, spouses, children of the head, and any other familial relative. However, they must not include any extra-familial members.
Presence and number of children

Household types are also disaggregated by the presence of children under/above age 6 or by the number of children under/above age 6.

In households of couples with children and lone-parent households, children under the age of 6 must be both listed as a “child of head” and be under the age of 6.

In extended-family households, children under the age of 6 must be both listed as either a “child of head” or “other family relative” and be under the age of 6.

The total number of children under 6 in each household is then calculated with a view to classifying persons as living in households with zero, one, two, or three or more children under 6. Household types where there are never any children present (one–person households, households of couples without children and extended-family
households without children) are recorded as having zero children under 6.

Once grouped by sex, number of children under 6, the total number of individuals in each group who are in the labour force (employed or unemployed) is calculated and divided by the total population of the group. This yields a labour force participation rate for each group.

Prime-age labour force participation rate by sex, household type and rural / urban areas

This is an extension of the indicator above where prime-age persons (aged 25 to 54) are grouped by their sex, the type of household they live in, and whether they live in a rural or urban part of the country. The same restriction to ‘household head’ or ‘spouse of head’ applies to this indicator. Please refer to the subsections under the first indicator above (prime-age labour force participation rate by sex and household type) for detailed information on the construction of the aggregate household types used under this indicator.

Once grouped by sex, aggregate household type, and rural / urban area, the total number of individuals in each group who are in the labour force (employed or unemployed) is calculated and divided by the total population of the group. This yields a labour force participation rate for each group.

Sources

The indicators are produced using the ILO’s Harmonized Microdata collection, which is comprised of mostly labour force and household surveys processed and maintained by the ILO Department of Statistics. The specific survey used is available as metadata when downloading the data. 

Interpretation and uses

The difference between the labour force participation rates of women and men is particularly interesting, since it can reveal gender patterns in people’s decision to integrate the labour market. This difference (often called the gender gap in labour force participation) is closely linked to how ingrained gendered social norms and stereotypical gender roles are. 

Limitations

The labour force participation rate has its limitations. It refers to people participating in the labour force, irrespective of whether they are employed or unemployed, and regardless of the differences in working conditions and job quality among the employed. However, in spite of this, the labour force participation rate is still a key indicator showing us the extent to which people of working age hold or would like to hold jobs.