Shockingly, almost half of Europe’s young adults still live with their parents, despite the fact that they are likely more highly educated than them.  This record level of dependency has both social and demographic implications. 

A comprehensive on-going social survey of 28 European countries reported this week that the percentage of people aged 18-30 who were still living with their parents had risen to 48% by 2011, reflecting the deprivation and unemployment that surged during the economic crisis.  Numbers have increased, not only among those still studying, but also in the 25 – 30 age bracket – an age most young people would hope to be earning and settled into a career. 

Data from EU agency Eurofound obtained by The Guardian shows that it is not only debt-laden countries seeing the shift either, with large rises of young people continuing to live at home in countries such as Sweden, Denmark, France, Belgium and Austria as well. In Italy, nearly four-fifths (79%) of young adults were living with their parents (although it is also more culturally likely in Italy that this should be the case). 

One of the report’s authors, Anna Ludwinek, said that the situation of European youth has fundamentally changed and looks very different from the situation of their parents and grandparents.  Sadly, she also noted that it is a myth that living with children and parents in a multi-generational household is all fun and games, commenting:

“Really we see that multi-generational households have very low life satisfaction and a very high level of deprivation and perceived social exclusion…if you are at the age of 30 and are still living with your parents and, on top of that you have your own family, it is really difficult to start an independent life.”

ThPeter Matjašic, president of the European Youth Forum considers that Europe’s youth are still “in the full force of the storm” despite talk of a recovery.  Too many were still unemployed or, if they were in work, this was “precarious and often without the safety net of proper social security”.  Speaking to The Guardian, he further commented that:

“This report makes worrying reading because it provides more evidence that, at the time that young people should be becoming autonomous adults making their own way in the world, they are forced to continue to live at home with their parents for much longer than before, and this is now becoming the norm in many countries where it was not common practice before.”

It doesn’t bode well for the future of the family in Europe if young people cannot even afford to live independently.  I would certainly think twice about getting married and having children if I could not yet afford to live alone.  It must also be very hard on young people’s self esteem, and could well hinder financial goals long term.  Let’s hope that as we see the economy start to recover, we also see the creation of more jobs for young people and thus more security for them and their families – along with their parents who continue to support them.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...