Living with Mum and Dad

Ronnie Corbett and Barbara Lott in Sorry
Image caption Still in the parental home - Ronnie Corbett in Sorry

This week my eldest daughter announced she was moving out.

At the age of 23, she had found a flat-share she could afford. A wave of sadness swept over me - our family unit was crumbling. But, like many parents, I also felt a sense of relief that she had finally found a way out of the nest.

My wife and I both said goodbye to our respective parents well before our 21st birthdays and to us, there is something almost odd about still sharing a home with your mum and dad after your education is complete.

We learn today, though, that a quarter of all 20-34 year-olds in the UK still live with their parents. According to analysis of census data by the Office for National Statistics, since 1996, the number of young adults still at home with their mum or dad has increased by 25% to 3.3 million.

In some parts of Britain, the proportion is far greater. In Northern Ireland, a third of 20-34 year-olds are living with parents, compared to London and Yorkshire where the proportion is just 22%.

Britain's living habits appear to be changing - becoming more southern European, perhaps. While in Scandinavian countries, children tend to leave home by the age of 20 or 21, in Italy, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia it tends to be late 20s for daughters and above 30 for sons. In Bulgaria, most men are still living at home at 35.

So what is going on? In Britain, the biggest increase is found among 20-24 year-olds - 49% of that age group still live at home. One obvious reason for that is housing affordability - the ratio of house prices paid by first-time buyers to their incomes is now 4.4, up from 2.7 back in 1996.

Millions of parents will recognise the problem of a child in their late teens or early 20s unable to afford to buy or even to rent a home in some parts of the country. Certainly with my children, finding a decent and affordable place to live in London has proved immensely difficult.

But there are other reasons why young adults are not flying the nest as they once did. The big increase in the figures coincides with the economic downturn. The proportion of young people (18-24) who are unemployed has risen from 13% in 2008 to 19% last year. Without a job it becomes much harder to make that big move into the wider world.

Among 20-34 year-olds who live with their parents, 13% are without a job. Among those who live independently, it is 6%. Austerity more generally has meant that young adults may choose to study at a college or university close to the parental home, avoiding expensive accommodation costs.

Image copyright Thinkstock

Men are more likely than women to still be living at home in their mid to late 20s. For every 10 women, 17 men aged 20-34 are still shacked up with their parents. The main reason is that women tend to form partnerships with men older than they are - so more in the 20-34 age group are married or cohabiting.

I do wonder whether there is also a tendency for young people generally to settle down in a relationship later in life. More people go to university now and students are likely to wait until after their education before getting married or agreeing to cohabit.

Lifestyles may be changing, but Britain is far from unusual. Of the 28 countries in the European Union, only six have a lower proportion of 25-34 year-olds living with their parents than the UK.