OECD: Family breakdown accelerating in the West

Posted on | February 1, 2012 by Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D. |

A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development brings bad news for the family and the societies it supports:

Since the 1960s the family in the OECD area has undergone significant transformation. In many countries, the extended family has all but disappeared, and the traditional two-parent family has become much less widespread as divorce rates, re-marriages, cohabitation, single parenthood and same-sex partnerships have all increased.

With rising migration, cultures and values have become more diverse, with some ethnic minorities evolving as parallel family cultures while others intermingle with mainstream cultures through mixed-race marriages. Families have seen more mothers take up work in the labour market, their adolescents spend longer and longer in education and training, and the elderly members of the family live longer and, increasingly, alone.

The repercussions of these changes on housing, pensions, health and long-term care, on labour markets, education and public finances, have been remarkable. Recent demographic projections perfromed by many OECD countries suggest that the next 20 years are likely to see a continuation and even acceleration of changes in household and family structures.  In particular, the numbers and shares of single-adult and single-parent households are expected to increase significantly, as is the number of couples without children.

This report explores likely future changes in family and household structures in OECD countries; identifies what appear to be the main forces shaping the family landscape between now and 2030; discusses the longer-term challenges for policy arising from those expected changes; and on the basis of the three subsequent thematic chapters, suggests policy options for managing the challenges on a sustainable basis.

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