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Two-thirds of young Italians now living with parents as unemployment rises

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Two-thirds of young Italians now living with parents as unemployment rises
Young people outside an apartment in Molfetta, in the southern region of Puglia, where up to 75 percent of under-34s live with their parents. (Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP)

The number of people aged 18-34 still living at home is now as high as 75 percent in some parts of Italy, new official data shows, as wages shrink and youth unemployment grows.

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The stereotype of the Italian 'mammone', who lives with mamma until well into his 30s or beyond, is alive and well as the number of young people living at home has risen again according to the latest annual economic report by national statistics bureau Istat, published on Wednesday.

In 2022, some 67.4 percent of all 18-34 year-olds in Italy were living with at least one parent, an increase of almost eight points in twenty years - the rate in 2002 was 59.7 percent.

The number was as high as 75 percent in the southern regions of Campania and Puglia, Istat found.

The phenomenon remained, as ever, more prevalent in young men, with 74 percent of them compared to 66 percent of women in the same age group living at home.

"Today's young people have increasingly protracted transitions into adulthood," read the report.

The phenomenon is not unique to Italy, with the most recent Eurostat data, from 2021, showing a similar trend among the 16-29 age group in Italy as well as other southern European countries including Croatia, Greece, and Portugal.

While cultural factors are often suggested as a potential cause, with Italians known for close family ties, Italy's economic situation appears to play a far larger role in keeping young people living at home for longer.

Istat's report pointed to a high prevalence of insecure employment among younger Italians, as well as shrinking wages and decreased spending power.

“Permanent employment, which between 2004 and 2023 grew by +9.7 percent, has increased only among the employed over the age of fifty,” Istat noted, partly attributing this to a squeeze on pensions in recent years which means many are retiring later.

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Italy meanwhile has one of the EU’s highest rates of youth unemployment, which had risen further to 22 percent as of February 2024, according to Eurostat data.

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Italian workers of all ages were getting poorer, Istat found, and the number of working people in poverty had risen to 14 percent.

"Despite the improvements observed in the labour market in recent years," the report said, "Italy retains a very high share of employed people in economically vulnerable conditions.

"Between 2013 and 2023, the purchasing power of gross wages in Italy decreased by 4.5 percent, while in the other major economies of the EU27 it grew at rates between 1.1 percent in France and 5.7 percent in Germany."

Within this context, the Istat report noted that young Italians were also getting married five years later than in 2002, with men now waiting until an average age of 36.5 before tying the knot, and women 33.6.

KEY POINTS: What is Italy’s government doing to help families?

The age at which women have their first child had also risen, to 31.6 years against 29.7 in 2002.

Italy's birth rate in 2023 fell to a record low of 379,000 after 15 years of decline, Istat reported in January.

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"The substantial decline in births of recent years has deep roots, and is due to the parenting choices (fewer children and increasingly later) of Italian couples today and those of yesterday," Istat's latest report found, reporting that lower birth rates 30 years ago also contributed.

Italy's plunging birth rate and ageing population has been a hot-button topic for the current government, which said this month that it aims to launch a Vatican-backed campaign to increase births to 500,000 per year by 2033.

Italy's birth rate had previously been boosted by a higher number of births among foreign nationals in Italy, however the number of babies born to non-Italian mothers had also dropped, Istat said, bringing it in line with the trend among the Italian population.

The shift was attributed to various factors, including the challenges immigrants face and the high employment rates among foreign women, many of whom are employed in demanding but low-paid full-time jobs.

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