Emancipate, that’s the question. The age at which young people they fly from the family nest to start an independent life is being delayed in the European Union (EU), although with notable differences between the 27 countries that make it up. The socioeconomic reality places young Spaniards among those who take the longest to emancipate themselves given the upward trend in this reality in the last 10 years.
In 2022, young people across the EU left their parents’ homes at a average age of 26.4 years, according to Eurostat data. It is in the individual analysis where the variations by country are revealed and where the north-south difference is drawn.
The highest average ages for emancipation, 30 years or older, were recorded in Croatia (33.4 years), Slovakia (30.8), Greece (30.7), Bulgaria and Spain (both 30.3), Malta (30.1) and Italy (30.0) while in Finland (21.3 years), Sweden (21.4), Denmark (21.7) and Estonia (22.7), independent living is below the average and arrives before the age of 23.
The evolution in the last 10 years highlights more this barrier between the southern countries and the Scandinavian countries (Estonia makes it onto the list). The European average age for emancipation has remained stable although it has increased across the board. Of the 14 countries where it has increased, the ones where it has increased the most have been in Croatia (+1.8 years), Greece (+1.7) and Spain (+1.6).
The Spanish case, with the average age of emancipation among the highest and in the ‘top 3’ of the countries where it has lagged the most in the last decade, reflects a socioeconomic reality marked by youth unemployment, low wages, home prices and birth rates at record lows.
Registered unemployment data continue to show very high levels of unemployment among young people. According to Eurostat, as of June of this year, youth unemployment reached 27.3%, keeping Spain as the leader in European statistics.
Salaries help delve deeper into the differences. The average ordinary gross salary in the EU rose to 2,302 euros per month in 2022, but in the case of Spain, it was 20.9% below, at 1,822 euros, which is 480 euros less per month.
With this scenario, access to housing becomes complicated. Accessing a mortgage in the midst of rising rates and tightening of conditions removes the possibilities for precarious incomes, who also do not have the savings capacity to afford the entrance to an apartment. And rent, which has seen an increase of more than 9% in the year, is also being increasingly strained.
At the moment, the measures to alleviate this reality are far from covering the needs. In terms of employment, the labor reform is taking steps to reduce the level of unemployment but it remains very high and has not eliminated the precariousness of the jobs that many young people have access to. And housing aid (housing guarantees or rent caps) do not compensate for the deep gap between the real estate market and economic solvency.
Women leave the family home earlier than men
Another aspect that Eurostat measures in its analysis of the age of emancipation is the age difference between men and women. On average, men left the family home at 27.3 years, later than women who do so at 25.4 years. In all countries young women became independent before young men.
In nine EU countries (Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovakia, Spain, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Portugal), men left home after the age of 30, while this is the case for women, only as late as emancipation in Croatia.
The largest distance was recorded in Romania, with 4.5 years of difference between the 29.9 years at which men left and the 25.4 years for women. On the opposite side, Luxembourg (distance of 0.5 years), Sweden (0.6 years), Denmark and Malta (both 0.7 years) recorded more similar average ages of emancipation between men and women.