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Young people becoming independent sooner – but freedom is precarious

08.10.2008
The percentage of young people leaving home in Spain has doubled since 1996, but for most this liberty is unstable, with the majority still depending on their parents until they are at least 30. This is the main conclusion of the latest report from the CIS, Precarious independence. Young people’s transition to adult life in Spain at the start of the 21st century.

The number of young people aged between 16 and 29 living on their own earnings alone has almost doubled since 1997, standing at 26.3% in 2006. In addition, the percentage of those who leave the family home has grown by 11% in the past 10 years to reach 31% in 2006, with the number of young people classified by the National Statistics Institute as independent persons (having paid work and being the highest earner in their household, or the partner of the highest earner) having risen from 16% in 1997 to 29% in 2007.

The study, which combines the results of thousands of personal interviews carried out with young people by the CIS over the past 10 years with data from the annual Working Population Surveys, says this increase in young people’s autonomy – which has still to reach the levels of previous generations – comes as a result of the end of the economic crisis in the early 1990s and the employment reforms of 1997, which reduced the rate of unemployment and temporary employment among young people.

“We attribute the increase to this range of factors, and also to the fact that families have adopted new strategies to enable young people to leave home earlier,” Roger Soler, one of the report’s authors, told SINC.

Soler stressed that intermediate situations of ‘semi-dependency’ had increased, with more than half of all young people aged between 21 and 29 still being economically dependent on their families or living in the family home, even if contributing from their own income.

By 29, most people in the study – more than 40% – have gained complete independence, but more than one quarter still lives in the family home, and a similar percentage is still totally or partially economically dependent on their family. Around 5% are dependent both for economic and accommodation reasons.

Economic and residential dependence occurs at different levels, however. “Living outside the family home does not necessarily relate to economic independence,” Solar noted. “People leave home earlier, but are still economically dependent on their parents.” While the numbers still living at home declines from the age of 26 or 27 onward, economic dependence remains steady or even grows, accounting for more than one-quarter of young people in this age range.

In comparison with other countries, where young people receive grants that make them autonomous during their studies (such as in Scandinavian countries), or have access to student loans, the State and market in Spain, as in other southern European countries, still expect families to ensure their children’s wellbeing, according to Soler, who said: “This causes a delay in the life stage normally characterised by the gaining of independence from your family.”

Help from parents, which enables what the report calls “unstable transitions to independence through semi-dependency” does help young people to break free, but also removes any incentive to devise appropriate political measures, which in turn makes independence harder to achieve.

Lack of stability in the labour market means young people cannot earn enough to support themselves, says the researcher. They suffer higher levels of unemployment, temporary contracts, over-qualification and low salaries, and – compared with other countries – it is hard to combine work and studies. In addition, “downgraded social protection” means families must bear responsibility for them (only one-third of unemployed young people receives unemployment benefit).

Getting a place to live is even harder, according to the report. In comparison with the flexibility of the labour market, the housing market is extremely rigid, with limited rental supply at rapidly increasing prices, house prices having tripled within a decade, and an insufficient supply of officially subsidised housing, leaving a large section of the population without any means of accessing free-market or subsidised housing.

These barriers have other effects on young people, delaying their entry into political and public life, according to Soler. The researcher concludes that young people’s attachment to the “comfort” of staying at home and saving money is not the cause of the problem, but instead “the result of the current situation”.

SINC Team | alfa
Further information:
http://www.plataformasinc.es

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