Young people in Spain need to spend 94% of salary to rent own place

Prohibitively expensive prices combined with low incomes are making it increasingly difficult for youths to become independent, with 81% still living in the family home

Patricia Barcala, a 24-year-old from Madrid who cannot afford to move out from the family home.
Patricia Barcala, a 24-year-old from Madrid who cannot afford to move out from the family home.Inma Flores

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Only one in five Spaniards between the ages of 16 and 29 (18.6%) had moved out of home in the second quarter of 2019. This figure has continued to drop since the third quarter of 2008, when it was at 26.1%. In the meantime, renting a place has become increasingly difficult. At the end of 2008, people under 30 had to spend 55.7% of their salary to live alone; now they have to spend more than 94%, according to a study by the Emancipation Observatory of the National Youth Council (CJE), which was presented on Tuesday.

Only 16% of Spaniards who have moved out of home live by themselves

The study looks at figures dating back to 2006. Since then, young people in Spain have never had to spend so much to rent a place for themselves – not even during the property bubble between 2000 and 2008. In the third quarter of 2008, young people had to spend 97.2% of their salary on a mortgage repayment, but only 60% on rent. In the 11 years since then, this figure has fallen 30 percentage points for buying a home, and has risen to 94.4% for renting – up five percentage points from last year.

The study is based on figures from the Labor Cost Survey and Life Conditions Survey published by Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE). Using this information, the Emancipation Observatory determined that Spaniards between 16 and 29 years of age earn an average net salary of €11,188.73, or €932 a month. The cost of rent is based on figures from the real estate website Idealista, which shows the offer – not final – rental price (tenants often negotiate a lower price with the owner). According to this research, an 80-square meter home costs an average of €880 a month to rent.

Based on this information, the report estimates that a person under 30 should spend no more than €279.72 on rent, which is 30% of their salary (considered the “threshold of indebtedness”). But there is a huge divide between what young people can afford to pay and the reality of the real estate market. Only 16% of Spaniards who have moved out of home live by themselves.

Spaniards between 16 and 29 years of age earn an average of €932 a month

For the first time, the Observatory has also calculated the cost of sharing an apartment, which is the most viable option for those who want to leave the family home. Based on figures from the real estate website Pisos.com, a young person in Spain has to spend an average of 30.8% of their monthly salary to rent a shared apartment. But in the 21 provincial capitals – including Alicante, San Sebastián and Madrid, this figure is higher – in Barcelona, it is more than 40%.

“What this highlights is the precariousness faced by young people. A job is worthless if it gives us fewer  hours than we want to work or chains us to temporary contracts that offer no stability,” says María Rodríguez, the deputy president of the CJE, which works under the Health and Social Services Ministry. Not having enough work is a guarantee of economic hardship. Although the figure has dropped since last year, 22.1% of young people are at risk of poverty and exclusion.

More than 80% of Spaniards still living at home

The percentage of Spaniards living outside the family home is at its lowest level since 2002. Of the 6.7 million young people (aged 16 to 29) in the country, 1.2 million have moved out. More than 81% remain in the family home. Of the 2.5 million Spaniards between the ages of 25 and 29, only 992,000 have moved out, or 39.5%, a drop of three percentage points upon last year.

While 22.5% of women under 30 live independently, 14.8% of young men are still living at home. According to the latest data from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, in 2017 Spaniards on average moved out when they were 29.5 years old, compared to 18.5 in Sweden. The European average is 26.

More than 22% of young people are at risk of poverty and exclusion

“The studies show that Spain does not value autonomy and independence in this stage of life like other countries do, although it is true that other places in Europe have more generous youth policies,” says Almudena Moreno, a sociology professor at Valladolid University.

“I would love to move out, but it is an expense I cannot afford,” says Patricia Barcala, a 24-year-old who earns €1,000 a month as a digital consultant in Madrid. She has been considering renting an apartment with her boyfriend “but it is crazy,” she says. “Those that are minimally decent do not go for less than €1,200 [a month].”

“We want to live independently,” adds Rodríguez. “If we don’t leave home, it’s because we can’t.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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