Trapped with the Folks

Claire Lamont explains the dilemmas faced by families where young people cannot afford to leave the parental homeIF film comp logo

They’ve been dubbed ‘the boomerang generation’: young people forced to move back in with mum and dad, typically aged 20-34, often following years of further or higher education.

One in three young men and one in six young women are now in this situation – a total 3.2m young people. That is an increase of 28% since 1997, with a frightening acceleration of 6% year-on-year.*

But the derogatory ‘boomerang generation’ label masks the grim reality facing many of the young people in this situation. Living at home is often no lifestyle choice – after all, the appeal of having mum and dad wash up and cook for you soon wears off. Under- or unemployed, and faced with rocketing rent and living costs, moving back home with mum and dad is the only option for a growing number of young people in the UK.

No choice

Shelter estimates that 1.6 million people in their 20s and 30s are living with their parents specifically because they cannot afford to rent or buy a place of their own. And when the average deposit for a first-time buyer in London is now an inch under £60k, it’s hardly surprising that many young people in the capital feel they have no choice but to move back home.**

The effects on young people’s self-esteem can be severe. And this is a truly intergenerational issue: moving back home can sorely test familial relationships and put a strain on parents who thought they might now have some space without the kids. A recent YouGov poll found that one in five parents living with older children had to cut down on holidays as a result, and 1 in 10 said they wanted to move house but couldn’t while their children still lived there. More worryingly, 12% of respondents said that the arrangement was putting a strain on the relationship between parents and children.

No easy solutions

So what is to be done? Like many intergenerational issues, this one is fed by multiple failings in public policy over the past few decades, and is linked to the complexities of the housing crisis, the high cost and wide take-up of higher education, high unemployment among young people, and the prevalence of unpaid internships and the other forms of long-term unpaid work experience necessary now for most professional careers.

As such the solutions aren’t simple but will require policy changes in all of these areas. Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, lies in the chronic lack of affordable housing, particularly in the London and the South East. Any policymaker serious about addressing this issue could do far worse than to start building new affordable and social housing – right now.

If you or someone you know are stuck at home with no route out, we’d like to hear from you. Make a 3-minute film exploring the issues and your experiences and you could win cash and work experience at the Guardian or in a top TV production studio. All the details are here:

But hurry! Entries close on 27th March.

*Statistics from ‘The Boomerang Generation’ in The Economist Oct. 13th 2012: