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Single-parent families: a study of the struggles

The facts: more than 1 in 10 Belgian households is run by a single parent, and a quarter of these families face financial problems. Finding suitable housing is a struggle, compared to two-parent families. 

Today, there are few detailed statistics on the known challenges of single-parent families, such as purchasing power, housing and work. A new study, conducted in April 2024, aims to provide policymakers and field organisations with the necessary tools to support these families. The study was a close collaboration with Haystack Consulting and commissioned by IKEA Belgium, CAW and AMA.

A quantitative analysis

With the help of Haystack Consulting, 991 single-parent familes were analysed through an online panel; an incidence study among 1,494 individuals were used to assess the representativeness of single-parent families in Belgium. The conclusions, while confronting, are an important step towards finding solutions to this dire situation.

Single parents face greater financial difficulties than the general population, with a lower average household income.

61% of single-parent families have a household income of €2,800 or less, compared to only 35% of the general population below this threshold. The proportion of single-parent families who face financial difficulties is twice as high (24%) as the general population (12%). At least one-third are at risk of poverty, compared to one-fifth of the general population. This risk increases with the number of children: single parents with three children have a poverty risk of 63%. Meanwhile, most single parents are employed (71%), with the majority working full-time (51%).

Finding a home

One of the most pressing issues for single-parent families is access to housing that is affordable and spacious enough for both parent and children. Extensive research highlighted this fact.

Financial troubles are only one side of the story. A suitable home is hard to find for many single-parent families.

Only 30% of single-parent families with three or more children have a home with a bedroom for each family member. Thirteen percent of families have only one bedroom. The biggest obstacles single-parent families face in finding suitable housing are affordability (29%), long waiting lists for social housing (19%), discrimination by landlords (16%), and irregular income (14%). About 17% of these families spend more than half of their income on housing. Only 55% of single parents actually own their homes, compared to 72% of Belgians.

A Call for Action

CAW, AMA, and IKEA Belgium agree: Haystack Consulting’s extensive study highlights the need for targeted policy measures to improve the precarious situation of single-parent families on a structural level.

"Housing is a basic right. We call on policymakers to invest in sustainable housing solutions for people in need. For instance, housing forms where homeless single parents with children receive shelter and guidance for a certain period to find a permanent solution. These figures confirm what we see at CAW every day: the housing crisis is greatly felt by single mothers with children who cannot find decent and affordable housing, which then affects other areas such as their income and parenting," says Bart Claes, General Director of CAW.

"This study shows how many single-parent families are in a precarious situation and are forced to find drastic solutions for housing, such as staying with friends or family. Considering the increased risk of poverty, it is clear that we need to provide extra support to this group and focus more on prevention to prevent them from becoming homeless," says Christine Vanhessen, Director of AMA.

In collaboration with various field organizations, the three parties developed a memorandum last year with 10 concrete policy recommendations to improve the financial and housing situation of Belgian single parents. The memorandum advocates for quicker and smoother access to decent housing for single-parent families, a rapid transition income for single parents in emergency situations, and the centralisation of all support information through one online platform.

The study by Haystack Consulting shows that these policy recommendations are in line with the main requests and needs of single-parent families. Belgian single-parent families primarily request support for housing (68%), financial support (66%), and better support services (63%). Specifically in Flanders, the top five policy measures expected by single-parent families are:

  1. Financial support for housing and utilities
  2. Increased supply and shorter waiting times for social housing
  3. Greater awareness and knowledge of existing support mechanisms
  4. Reduction of the withholding tax
  5. Greater availability of mental health care

To discover the whole story, we invite you to read the full press article on the IKEA website here.

Get in touch with the expert

Stefan Peters
+31 6 29 48 42 70
Strategic Growth Enabler