Statistics South Africa’s latest data show that empty nest syndrome is the last thing the older generation has to worry about, because 31.8% of people between 25 and 35 are still bunking with their parents.
The agency’s annual general household survey, issued last month, showed that the number of millennials in this age group living with their parents rose from 2.4million in 2002 to just over three million last year.
The survey showed that male millennials were more likely to still be living with their parents than their female counterparts were, and the phenomenon was most pronounced in KwaZulu-Natal.
This echoes the pattern in the US, where the Pew Research Center last month reported that millennials aged 25-35 were more likely to be living with their parents than previous generations were.
The research centre listed the reasons as unfavourable economic conditions, debt and lower levels of education.
In South Africa, nearly half of the 25-35 age group still living at home are unemployed.
“I can’t move out because I do not have a job. When I did have a job, I did consider moving out but it was still too expensive for me to live on my own,” a 27-year-old Pinetown brand management graduate said.
A 33-year-old Kimberley man said he was forced to move back home in 2013 when he lost his job in film production in Johannesburg. “Most of my friends are also living at home although they are employed. We would rather use the money to improve our parents’ homes than spend on rent,” he said.
A 28-year-old Durban copywriter has not moved out as her parents are not financially secure.
“If I were to move, it would likely be to another province, but it would have to make financial sense as I would still be taking care of my parents no matter where I chose to be,” she said.
Retirement expert Lynda Smith said some millennials were likely supporting their parents who might not have saved enough for their retirement. “The reasons for this may be because of our political history or due to the fact that no security net exists here,” she said.
But some millennials are living with their parents just because they want to.
Durban teacher Lenise Marais, 33, moved back home after being away at university for seven years.
“I stayed with my parents because it was convenient for me. That was for the first two or three years, and then my dad passed away. Then my mom was in a car accident so I am still at home,” she said.
Her mother Ann said she was fine with her daughter eventually moving on – “But I will miss her company.”
I worry that my 30-year-old daughter will never learn to be financially independent if she continues to live with me
Some parents, however, are ready to push their adult children out the door.
“I worry that my 30-year-old daughter will never learn to be financially independent or responsible if she continues to live with me. She lives a carefree life without any responsibilities because she knows I will pick up the pieces,” a Randburg mother said.
Sandton clinical psychologist Bradley R Daniels said some parents allowed their children to be part-time adults.
“During the day they go to work but then they come home and are kids again because mom cooks for them and dad provides a roof over their heads.”
Some millennials are staying with their parents while saving for a home of their own.
“Staying at home, essentially rent-free or much reduced, gives them the opportunity to save for the deposit … Their purchasing power has been eroded by the appreciation in property prices over the years, making it more difficult to get onto the property ladder,” said Pam Golding Properties sales executive Jason Shaw.