Even though young people are in a worse position than the rest of the population in every country in the EU, this differential is particularly apparent in Spain.
In comparative terms, the social needs aspects with the widest gaps between young people and the total population are access to housing and financial and material wellbeing. In Spain, the percentage of individuals aged between 18 and 29 who find it difficult to meet their basic needs at the end of the month is higher than the average across Europe: almost a third of Spanish young adults suffer this type of financial pressure, whereas this percentage drops to almost 23.3% in the case of European young adults. In 2017, Spain was at the tail end of the ranking for this indicator, along with countries such as Italy and Portugal. Despite having much higher levels of youth unemployment and temporary contracts than in other member states in the EU (Villar, 2014), Spain occupies an intermediate position in relation to the percentage of people in work whose hourly pay is less than 2/3 the average pay. This difference is repeated when we compare the European average: young adults are in a worse position relative to the entire European context (in 2014, 24.3% of people in work aged between 20 and 29 were not earning an adequate rate of pay, as compared with 16.6% of the total population). Sweden and Belgium are the countries with the lowest incidence of the problem of poor pay rates, whereas Germany is at the bottom of the table. Young Spaniards are positioned at levels similar to those of Slovakia, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic.
More worrying is the indicator on late housing-related payments: in Spain, 6.8% of young adults not living with their parents were late in paying in their mortgage, rent or other costs associated with housing, whereas the European average percentage is lower, standing at 5.5%. Our country is just below mid-table in the ranking, alongside Bulgaria, Belgium and Portugal.
In addition, the percentage of Spaniards aged 18 to 29 who are obese is higher than the European average, ranking just below mid-table alongside countries like Austria and France. This result is in contrast with the result for the total population, which, though it is almost a percentage point higher than the average level of the European population, ranks four places above the young adults’ classification.
YOUNG ADULTS LEAVING THE PARENTAL HOME
Spain has traditionally been one of the European countries with the highest percentage of young adults living with their parents. The opportunities for them to move into homes of their own have fallen since 2008, in particular as a consequence of the economic crisis, due to the youth unemployment rate, insecure employment and the difficulties they face in finding a home. As can be seen in the figure, young adults’ independence rose during the financial boom. However, the percentage of young adults living with their parents has surged upwards since 2010. At the present time, 76% of young adults aged under 30 have still not been able to establish an independent life.
Virtually every country in the EU experienced this fall in the number of adults leaving the parental home, with the percentage of adults aged between 20 and 29 still living with their parents increasing between 2008 and 2017. Spain is one of the countries where this percentage is highest, far exceeding the European average: in 2017, 76.2% of young Spanish adults were still living in their parents’ home, compared to 53.1% across the EU. In this aspect, Spain ranks alongside other Mediterranean countries such Portugal, Greece and Italy. This seems to indicate that in addition to the employment and housing needs of this age group, the lack of public aid that will help them to establish themselves independently has meant that young Spanish adults turn to their families for financial protection, delaying their departure from the parental home (Ayllón, 2009).
Deprivations during childhood become unequal opportunities in adulthood.
Understanding the conditions in which this population segment lived prior
to the covid-19 crisis can help to prepare for the future.