Female head of household


A household with a female head is one in which a woman heads the household and is accepted in this role by other members resident in the household. The National Population and Housing Census of 2005 showed that throughout the country 10.1% of the total households were headed by women. This fact is reflected in the overall light green to green colour dominating this map. The percentages of female-headed households range from less than 3% to over 18%.

The map shows the spatial distribution of the high percentages (of more than 18%) of female-headed households which can be found in provinces along the Mekong River, and in particular, in provinces in the central region and the south of the country. Further above average percentages of female-headed households are found in Vientiane Capital, and the provinces of Khammuane and Savannakhet. Low percentages of less than 3% are found mostly in the northern provinces of Oudomxay, Huaphanh, Vientiane and Borikhamxay. In general terms more female-headed households are found in the south than in the north, possibly because in the former area there is a higher divorce and separation rate or more husbands seek jobs across the river in Thailand. Therefore this map should be studied in relation the maps of sex ratio (Map B.6) and marital status (Map B.8) but also those of migration (Section C).

Even though the percentage of households headed by a woman is often used as a measure of progress in gender equality, this should be applied with care to the Lao PDR. Taking over the role of the head of the household is for Lao women still predominantly the result of divorce, death, or migration of the husband. The lack of the support of a husband or father puts an additional stress on the women. Such families are often economically and socially disadvantaged and for heavy work neighbourhood support is needed. For education and necessities like food, clothes, etc. female-headed families are in a difficult financial situation. Public recognition of the performance of single women in family management is lacking and the chances of finding a second bread-winner are nearly zero. Therefore, to ensure more adequate economic security female-headed households require public support.

Overall both the nationwide and rural percentages of women heading households are quite low. It can be seen that women’s role in society must be promoted and women should assume leadership roles in responsible and decision making positions in order to promote gender equality in society.




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