Why half of Italy's young live with mum and dad

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Patrick Browne - [email protected]
Why half of Italy's young live with mum and dad
More that 45 percent of all Italians aged 25 to 34 still live with their parents – but why? Photo: Ubaldo Leo /Flickr

Almost half the number of Italians between the age of 25 and 34 still live with their parents, according to the most recent figures from Eurostat. While Italy's moribund economy goes some way to explain this - the rate has risen since 2008 - is there more to it?


The so-called ' Generation Y' has been staying on at home longer and longer across the western world, yet figures show Italy has one of the largest rates - 46.6 percent - in the world - over three times higher than the US. But why?

“I think people mostly stay with their parents for economic reasons,” 27-year-old-psychologist, Elena Coda, told The Local. 

Elena is unusual among her peers, having left home in Sardinia eight years ago to start university in Turin.

However, she was only able to take the leap because her parents were able to pay her rent and living costs.

“I'm lucky. My parents always encouraged me to leave home - but then again I'm from a town in Sardinia where there really aren't so many opportunities for young people.”

Coda admits that young Italians whose parents can't afford to send them away to study often end up stuck at home for long periods of time.

"Students graduate very late here,” added Coda, who picked up her masters degree last May. “That gives us a lot of time to clown around – so it's comfortable to stay at home and get looked after.

"Also, the pathetic prospects most graduates face when they do finally graduate doesn't really encourage us race through our studies."

When Italians do graduate and find a job they often join Italy's legion of “milleuristi” - a neologism used to describe the giant swathe of the workforce who earn €1,000 a month or less.

This prompts many young workers to keep living at home rent-free post-university, giving them the opportunity to save money, even on a such a low income.

But is Italy's sluggish economy the only reason young Italians are choosing to stay at home?

While the general picture across Europe shows that richer northern countries have less young people living at home compared to their southern and ex-Soviet counterparts, many more young Italians choose to live at home than do Hungarians, Poles, Spaniards or Romanians.

Traditionally, the family has been central to Italian society and many commentators now are now seeing this as having a stifling effect on the country's young adults, who are considered to be over-mothered and mollycoddled.

The ex-Italian finance minister Tomasso Padoa-Schiopa famously branded young Italians as 'bamboccioni' (big babies) in 2007 and since then the name has stuck.

But, given the economic problems faced by young workers, are these labels fair?

In a controversial 2006 paper, economists Marco Manacorda and Enrico Moretti argued that clingy parents actively encourage their kids to stay at home and effectively buy their freedom with offers of free food and board.

"Paradoxically, it is cohabitation that produces higher youth unemployment rather than the other way round,” argued Manacorda and Moretti. “Children tend to have lower incentives to find their way in the labour market." 

But not all young Italians think staying at home until later in life is a disaster.

Rudy Intraina, a 25-year-old from Milan, left home for the first time after moving to the UK with his partner last year.

“This practice is considered abysmal by some, but since I've been in the UK I've realized it's common for very young people to move out. Is that better?” he asked.

“Some Italian parents have spent years sacrificing their money and time so that our generation could comfortably graduate from university and look for better career and economic security.”

“Ultimately, it is an act of selfless love.”

The older generation living at home 

Unlike in the UK, it’s also much less of a stigma to avoid fleeing the nest. In fact, a fairly significant number – about 25 percent according to the most recent figures from Censis - of those between the age of 30 and 44 still live at home, with this number dropping to 11.8 percent for those between 45 and 64.

In Italy it’s still completely normal for more than one generation to live under one roof, a tradition founded on strong family values and the virtue of taking care of eachother.

“It’s not only family values though,” Giuseppe Morelli, a 43-year-old teacher from Turin, who still lives with his parents, told The Local.

“We have a strong aversion to getting into debt – such as paying off high mortgages or spending on rent, especially when we don’t have a salary capable of covering the cost.”

Morelli’s 36-year-old brother also lives in the large central Turin home, along with his 27-year-old nephew, who has his own flat annexed to the property. The family also has a home in the nearby mountains.

“For us, it makes complete sense. We live together, but independently,” he added.

“So we’re not ‘tied to the apron strings’. It works well as it means we can keep an eye on our parents and look out for each other.”



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