Financial factors keeping country’s young people from leaving the nest

Major changes that have taken place recently in young people’s attitudes to marriage or living together out of wedlock are a good indication of the overall direction of Greek society, according to a recent survey. This shows that young people in Greece, and not only here, are delaying their independent lives and starting families at older ages. There are two reasons for this: Either they are studying for longer and longer periods, or because they cannot get jobs. So they are beginning their adult life later and later, then getting married without first having lived with someone or experienced life on their own. Unmarried couples living together, with or without children, is still an uncommon practice in Greece. But some believe that these new patterns of behavior should not only be interpreted as a result of longer periods of study or failure to find work, but should be seen within a wider framework of changes within family models, according to a study by the Greek Social Research Center (EKKE). «Cultural mores and the role of the family are having a considerable influence on young people, delaying their departure from the family home, particularly in Greece where young people enjoy independence while continuing to live with their parents,» according to EKKE researchers Laura Alipranti-Maratou and Evelyn Tsanira. The same survey was carried out in France, and many of the comparative findings indicate considerable differences between the two countries. Golden age The survey found that in Greece, financial reasons cannot be held solely responsible for young people staying on with their parents. As in other Mediterranean countries, cultural factors play a major role. Youth is seen as the «golden age,» free of responsibility, a perception shared by parents and children alike. Then there is the parents’ desire to see their children acquire higher degrees. Meanwhile, a loosening of parental control encourages young people to stay on at home. Things like pocket money and curfews can be negotiated without the clashes of previous years over issues of independence. «The family in Greece has maintained its function as a prop for young people,» the survey found. Young people who do have jobs often prefer to stay with their parents to save – or spend – their own money. Setting up their own homes would mean lowering their standard of living considerably. This applies more to the middle classes. «This is a new model of life where two generations coexist, together and separately, and that permits the perpetuation of bonds between them,» said the survey. This also is directly related to the State’s financial and social policy regarding young people. Young people’s incomes in the 15 European Union member states (until May 1) derived mainly from their work, although there were major discrepancies between member states. The second source of income is social subsidies such as unemployment and family benefits and, in one third of cases, housing subsidies. In Greece, these types of benefits to families and young people are extremely limited. This year measures were introduced to subsidize students and their families, in the form of a student’s housing benefit for undergraduates who are studying away from their home towns. According to the survey, it is difficult to estimate young people’s income, since part of it comes from other sources such as gifts from three generations of relatives, whether as cash or other types of gifts. This type of revenue is an expression of the solidarity within Greek families, a factor which the State uses as a crutch for its inadequate social policy regarding families.