Eight out of ten under 30 live with their parents

Covid-19 sinks youth emancipation in Spain to 1999 figures

Clara López Alcaide
3 min
The pandemic has worsened access to housing and the labour market for young people.

BarcelonaLeaving home remains impossible for most young people. Job insecurity (high unemployment, temporary contracts and low wages) and difficulties in accessing housing are the main reasons that prevent people between 16 and 29 from leaving the family home. This is the complaint launched this Tuesday by the Spanish Youth Council (CJE), which has presented in Parliament the data of the latest report of the Youth Emancipation Observatory, corresponding to the last half of 2020. According to the document, only 16% of young Spaniards are emancipated, the lowest figure since 1999 and which in the last year has fallen by three points (from 18.5% to the current figure). The remaining 84% of young people still live with their parents.

The data collected confirm the negative effects of the pandemic on the age of emancipation, but the CJE ensures that the fall is recorded since the economic storm of the financial crisis. "The residential emancipation of the population between 16 and 26 was increasing until 2007 and has been falling since then until the data of this latest report, the lowest in the last 23 years", explained sociologist Joffre Lopez and lead author of the study. The researchers find two main causes: the lack of job stability among the younger population and the price of housing.

Catalonia, where more young people are emancipated

The autonomous community where young people take longer to leave home is Cantabria: only 12% of its population between 16 and 29 years, followed by Castilla La Mancha (12%) and Andalusia (15%). On the other hand, Catalonia has the highest emancipation rate in Spain (18.6%), a figure that the authors of the study attribute to the region's ability to attract young people from abroad and from other parts of Spain. The Balearic Islands are in second place with 17.6% of its total population living independently from their parents, followed by Extremadura (17.5%), and all of them above the state average.

Despite being leaders in emancipation, both Catalonia and the Balearic Islands stand out for the high prices of the housing market that force to allocate much of the salary to cover the cost of rent. A young Catalan wage-earner would have to spend on average almost 112% of their salary -that is, more than their income- on renting a house if he or she lived alone, and 66% on mortgage. A reality that is not far from that of the Balearic Islands, where young people have to spend 111.2% of their purchasing power to pay the rent each month and 93.8% for mortgage, in the event of acquiring a property. In addition, the two communities lead the cost of access to rental housing for a worker between 16 and 34.

Little income regularity

The ravages of covid-19 are reflected above all in the employment of young people: more than 30% are unemployed, a figure which, in the case of 16-24 year olds, rises to 40%. In addition to the difficulties in finding a job, the duration and conditions of contracts are also of concern. According to the report, more than half of young Spaniards in employment have a temporary contract (52.1%). Thus, the authors point out, the regularity of income is not assured either: "For a person to be able to emancipate themselves, they have to have a stable employment position; as this is difficult now, it is normal that it is being postponed", pointed out López.

The data is also closely related to the risk of suffering poverty. According to the study, of 2019, 31.7% of young people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. "In the Spain of the 21st century, one in three young people is poor", denounced the vice president of CJE, Margarita Guerrero, and has demanded that precariousness "is made visible as a social issue and not an isolated thing" that affects a minority of the group. "The younger people have only lived in crisis and all this uncertainty has affected our lives, also our mental health", concluded Guerrero.

Regulation of rental prices

When it comes to accessing housing, renting is the predominant option. Given the low savings capacity, buying a home is no longer an option for most young people, who have problems getting the down payment on a mortgage, which leads them to opt for renting. Specifically, more than half of the young people who no longer live with their parents opt for this formula (57.5%), despite the economic overexertion it entails: on average, a person living alone spends more than 91% of their salary on rent. If the person rented a shared room, they would have to allocate 28% of it.

The entity has denounced the "housing crisis" suffered by young people and has asked governments to promote "a strong housing policy" which also facilitates the emancipation of younger groups. "We have serious problems to carry out an independent life project with respect to our parents", said the vice-president of CJE, Adrià Junyent, and among several measures he proposed reforming the labour law, increasing the minimum wage and a regulation of rental prices "well designed for stressed areas". Junyent proposed allocating part of the recovery funds to these measures and called for more dialogue between the administration and young people.