One-person Households – A Resource Time Bomb?
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In the western world there is a trend towards the growth of small households, especially one-person households. In resource terms, one-person households are likely to consume more land, energy, goods and materials per person than those living in larger households where resources are shared amongst a greater number of people. Thus an increase in one-person households is likely to accelerate domestic consumption of resources over the next twenty years. This paper demonstrates the scale of the problem internationally and in the UK. It also investigates the UK Government’s response and suggests ways in which it can be tackled in the future. Keywords: resource consumption, one-person households, occupancy rates, household size, demographic change. 1 One-person household explosion and the potential consumption crisis Household size has substantially reduced in Europe over the last 40 years. Average household size has decreased in the EU, while at the same time the absolute number of households has increased. More people are living in smaller households, while the proportion living in four or more person households is decreasing. The average household size in the EU in 1981/82 was 2.8 persons; in 2000/1 it was 2.5. However, there is variation throughout the EU. Spain, Portugal and Ireland have the largest households, while Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Germany, closely followed by the UK, have the smallest. The UNCHS-Habitat Indicators Programme, 1997 indicated an increase in Europe of one-person households from the 1960’s onwards. It suggested that the number of one-person households was especially high in Northern and Western Europe,
resource consumption, one-person households, occupancy rates, household size, demographic change.