Undo the path traveled to return to the parents' house. It is the reality, almost always harsh, faced by many young Spaniards who at some point celebrated the feat of emancipation. The phenomenon is not unknown, but the return to the nest intensifies in difficult times and these are. The boomerang kids return to the family home for not being able to assume the rent or the mortgage, for wanting to maintain their level of consumption and well-being and to prepare a new exit attempt.
Transitions to adulthood are increasingly fragmented and reversible. "These are people who are not so young, they are in their thirties, who at the time started a life project as a couple or sharing a flat with friends or strangers, and whose jobs, often precarious, do not allow individual emancipation," summarizes sociologist Mariano Urraco, professor at the Distance University of Madrid (UDIMA). Although there is no statistic that counts how many people there are, Urraco confirms the existence of these undesirable dynamics that are directly related to precariousness, with the lack of resources to support themselves. He also realizes that there are many other young people who stop the coup with the help of their parents: they fill the fridge or give them a flat, for example.
The relentless rise in rental prices, unemployment, permanent part-time contracts and low wages explain the drama of the collective in Spain. Not forgetting the increase in the cost of living and the rise in interest rates, which have significantly worsened the options of being independent. "Young people have seen their purchasing power reduced by 34% in the last 25 years, and approximately 23% since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008," says David Veloso Larraz, general director of the Youth Institute (Injuve).
Having a job has long ceased to be enough. "Although the average salary of a young person rose by 4.6%, to 1,089 euros net per month, the rent did so by 7.5%. Thus, the average income was established at 912 euros, "says Juan Antonio Báez, vice president of the Youth Council of Spain (CJE), with data from the second half of 2022. This represents 83.7% of the salary. But equally important is to pay the bills for water, electricity or gas, so the total bill amounts to 1,053 euros per month, 96.6% of the salary. That is, there are barely 37 euros left to buy food and clothes and spend on leisure. Unfeasible. As if it were an eternal curse, "we are seeing people in their 35s or 40s who are forced to live as young people in their 25s," Baez says. And he exposes another reason for the resurgence of residential reversibility: "The autonomous communities have not entered the young bonus to the rent of 250 euros for people under 35 years of age to many applicants."
Ana Pastor, a 40-year-old nursing assistant, managed to emancipate herself at 27 in Madrid, where she lives. And as usual at those ages, he did it sharing a flat with three friends. Then with his partner, with whom he broke up three years ago. Then the adventure ends. "With 1,200 euros you can not live in Madrid," he says. Now she lives with her father and saves as much as she can "to be able to rent a flat by myself, without depending on friends or partner". In addition, it is studying Diagnostic Imaging to increase its revenue. "I will earn between 1,600 or 1,700 euros a month."
—And buy a flat?
"No, I can't buy, nor do I consider it.
Emancipation is carried out mostly through rent. "For those under 30 years emancipated, rent is the clearly majority option (53.4%) for a decade. For those aged between 30 and 34, rent has gone from 24.9% to 39.8%, 15 percentage points more, and transfers of family homes have advanced from 6.3% to 13.2%; Meanwhile, home ownership has fallen from 68.7% to 47%, more than 20 percentage points," says the Essentials report, part of the joint socioeconomics research program between the BBVA Foundation and the Ivie.
On the ground, both options have become so expensive that there is only one way left: sharing a flat. And it does not come for free: a room costs on average in Spain 445 euros per month, while eight years ago it was 258 euros, according to Fotocasa.
When the adventure ends
Patricia Álvarez shared with her partner life and expenses until two years ago in a studio of 20 meters in the district of Carabanchel (Madrid) for which they paid 600 euros. After the breakup, this 34-year-old hairdresser had no choice but to retrace her steps and return to her parents' house. "At that time I was making minimum wage. Now it has risen to 1030 euros a month, but rents have increased much more," he explains. "I see it impossible to rent alone, I would have to go to Toledo," she says. And he reasons: "For less than 850 euros you do not find anything in Hortaleza, where I work, and also the landlords ask you for a lot of guarantees." Patricia lives from day to day, cannot save because she drags some loans and is pessimistic about her future: Either housing adapts to salaries or vice versa."
Romina Da Graca, 35, lives with her parents in Vigo. Agostime
Romina Da Graca, 35, has lived with her parents for three years, when she separated from her husband. "We used to pay 450 euros for a studio next to El Corte Inglés, but now there are no such prices. They ask you for 650 euros or there, I can not pay a full rent, "says this Argentine who works in a bakery in Vigo and assumes the expenses of the rent half with her parents. He is aware that with his salary of 1,200 euros per month his only option is to share a flat with more people. Maybe later I can do it alone, even if that means making some sacrifice. "I'll have fewer coffees," he assumes.
The return home of the parents is usually lived with large doses of frustration. "You feel like you're falling into the void," says Pastor. "Today it is seen as a failure, as a defeat, but as this phenomenon becomes more and more widespread, it will be seen with less and less social stigma," Urraco says. The sociologist does not rule out that this phenomenon is institutionalized and that people come and go from their parents' house more than once. The general director of Injuve stresses the impact it has on the mental health of young people. "There is a risk that they will take it as a failure and take the blame for their own decisions, when the reality is that the economic system in which we live works on the basis of wild competition, where immediacy and business prevail."
Belén Rupérez, a 34-year-old teacher from Madrid and a teacher at a nursery school, believes that the worst thing is the loss of independence. "You feel a little bit of frustration, but I don't take it badly." He celebrates having an indefinite contract since 2019 that generates an income of 1,700 euros per month. She first became independent with a friend in 2017 in an apartment for which they paid half 775 euros per month. Later, "my friend bought a house with her boyfriend and living alone was unfeasible. The easiest option I saw was to go back to my parents' house." This was in 2019 and since then he manages to save, but without deprivation. "I'm going out, I'm going on a trip..." The goal is to buy a flat and have something of mine," he says.
It is not a minority thought. Many are the young people who want to be owners. "That eagerness that is supposedly attributed to young people who want to live without ties is to make a virtue out of necessity. Most would like to own a home, just as they would like to have a lifetime job like their parents," says Urraco.
The main dam is the previous savings. "With an average salary it is difficult to cope with the entry," says Rupérez. They are 49,852 euros on average, the equivalent of 3.8 full years of salary of someone who was under 30 years old, according to the CJE. "There is research that concludes that only 13% of people who rent have savings to meet the initial outlay that a purchase would entail," says Veloso Larraz. Consequently, "access to housing, both rented and owned, is emerging today as a problem of the first order," he adds. The sociologist Mariano Urraco points in the same direction: "Either because they charged more or because things cost less, before alternatives could be proposed without having to resort to other people. The situation of today's young people has nothing to do with what their parents experienced."
Even more devastating is the situation of the young who have not even been able to make the leap from the nest. . The percentage of young people emancipating in Spain has stagnated. The CJE registers the highest average age of emancipation in the last 20 years: 30.3 years. "Young people in Spain cannot emancipate themselves until they stop being young," says Juan Antonio Báez. While in Spain emancipation was 15.9%, in the European Union the average emancipation rate was 31.9%, double. Not even having higher education guarantees being able to leave the family home, according to the CJE, which considers as young population allthose people who are between 16 and 29 years old.
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If the analysis is extended to those up to 34 years old, the result is that "in 2022 69.1% of young Spaniards aged 16 to 34 were still living in the family home, a percentage 10 points higher than ten years ago because they have been delaying their emancipation from the family home in recent decades", according to data from the BBVA and Ivie reports. While in 2008 42.1% of young people aged 16 to 34 were emancipated, in 2022 the percentage had fallen to 30.9%.
The professor emeritus of the University of Valencia and director of research of the Ivie, Francisco Pérez, points out that "the main reasons for the delay in emancipation are the prolongation of their years of training to pursue higher education and the difficulties in achieving economic autonomy, due both to the problems to access a stable and sufficiently remunerated job and to have affordable housing". The prolongation of studies is reflected in the fact that, until the end of the stage in which most young people study, emancipation is very scarce. In 2022, among young people under 24 the emancipation rate was only 7.3% (less than half that of 2008). But once that age is over, emancipation only advances slowly because so does economic independence. Between the ages of 25 and 29 it barely exceeds 36%. For the group of 30 to 34 years it does not reach 70% (69.8%).
The consequences of many young people still living in their parents' homes after their 30th birthday are obvious. "They are negative in very relevant aspects, such as the birth rate and the clarification of their expectations about their life projects. This is not good news for a society that aspires to be seen as inclusive and capable of offering opportunities to new generations," says Professor Pérez. The general director of Injuve adds: "The fact that there are no certainties for a life cycle completely conditions the life projects themselves. When you have difficulty making ends meet, or you need to change basic consumption habits, you can hardly think about buying a home or starting a family, with all the expenses that this implies."
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