There are some questions posed by parents that provoke an uncomfortable feeling of a lack of freedom among the under-30s. “Where are you going?” is one such question that Vanesa Martín, a 28-year-old Madrileña, prefers to avoid when she heads out of her family home, where she still lives. Just 21.5% of the under-30s in Spain, it seems, manage to become independent and move out from under the wing of their parents.
The figures are from a report released by the Emancipation Observatory, and correspond to the first quarter of 2015. They are unchanged from the previous quarter, and reveal that in Spain the average youngster doesn’t leave home until the age of 28.9 years.
Spaniards leave home before their Italian, Greek or Croatian counterparts, but later than the European average of 26.1 years
Spaniards leave home before their Italian, Greek or Croatian counterparts, but later than the European average of 26.1 years, and far from Sweden, where young people become independent at the age of just 19.6 years on average.
“There are two factors that come into play here,” explains Héctor Saz, the head of the Youth Board, the body that is behind the report. “The high price of property and a lack of steady work prospects.”
Despite the fall in property prices that Spain has seen in recent years, calculations from the observatory suggest that to buy a house right now, young people would have to commit 60% of their salary – double the level recommended by experts. Given that 38.7% of youngsters in Spain are currently unemployed, the chances of being able to leave the family home are remote.
But finances are not the only aspect behind these figures. “We have always been different on a cultural question too,” explains sociologist Almudena Moreno. “The value given to residing with parents according to the European Value Survey has always been higher [in Spain] than on the rest of the continent.”
The figures reveal that women leave home before men, although the age at which they do so is on the rise. This is having consequences on the demographic structure of Spain, which is likely to see more deaths than births in 2015 for the first time since the Spanish Civil War. The age at which Spanish women become mothers rose to 31.8 years in 2014.
The study indicates that the number of young people who leave before they are 24 is just 6.8%, and while the next age range, 25 to 29, has a healthier percentage at 44.3%, the relationship with parents doesn’t always end there. In some cases parents continue to provide financial support to their children while they are studying outside the parental home, or they act as guarantors for the purchase of a property.
The study indicates that the number of young people who leave before they are 24 is just 6.8%
But despite being unemployed, Vanesa Martín does not, for now, need to resort to paternal assistance to pay for an apartment in Madrid that she has committed to buying, and which is currently under construction. In two years, when it is complete, she plans to move there with her partner. For seven years she has only found temporary work, earning just over €1,000 a month as a nurse in public and private hospitals, allowing her to save given the low costs she has had while living with her parents. She initially wanted to rent an apartment, but then had second thoughts. “It was like throwing our money away,” she says. “We would rather have an investment for our future.” Until then, however, she’ll still have to offer her parents explanations every time she heads out the front door.
English version by Simon Hunter.