Italian young adults have a terrible reputation.
Absolutely babied by their moms, Italians basically remain children well into adulthood, enjoying the benefits of full-time emotional unpaid labor. I know many a 30-year-old who doesn’t cook, clean, do their own laundry or even, at times, buy their own clothes. Their mother’s grocery shop, make their appointments, cook three meals a day and even make all the bed’s in the house, including their not-so-young children’s bed.
This creates a generation of mommy’s-boys (and girls, though to a lesser extent) known as mammone in Italian. And though it may seem like I’m exaggerating in my stereotype, I’m sure we can all admit that most stereotypes have their fair share of truth to them. Italians really do remain less independent, overall, than most Americans, but this has a lot to do with living under the same roof as their parents for well past the acceptable age limit.
What’s the deal with adult Italians still living at home? Are entire generations of Italians lounging around their parents houses out of an unwillingness to grow up?
Italians live at home well past most Americans, because living on their own is financially impossible for 99 percent of young Italians.
Italy has one of the lowest employment rates in the entire European Union, especially Italian youth.
According to the annual Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) review:
- More than 20% of Italians are self-employed, one of the highest percentages in the EU.
- Italy has one of the highest NEET (Not engaged in education, employment or training; basically, they’ve given up searching for a job) rates in the EU at more than 23%, in line with Romania and Greece. Nearly 13 percent of the current active population is considered “available but not seeking.”
- Those who do have a job often have irregular, short-term contracts. More than 15% of Italian employees 25 to 39 years old had this kind of contract, compared to less than five% in the UK, for example.
- And the scariest quote from the review: “Most of the Member States saw further improvements in living standards in 2016. The number of people living in severely materially deprived conditions who were greatly constrained by a lack of resources continued to decline in 2016, according to Eurostat early estimates. Severe material deprivation decreased to 7.8 % in the EU and remained stable at 6.8 % in the euro area. Only Estonia, Italy and Romania saw a deterioration between 2015 and 2016 (Chart 1.38).”
We don’t need the statistics to see these phenomena, however. With monthly net pay averaging 1,200 euro among my 30-year-old, well-educated friends, 600 euro rent is nearly impossible. A New York-expensive apartment with a mortgage similar to that rent is nearly impossible.
I have a friend who completed her Master’s in psychology and is currently a teacher’s aid for disabled children earning roughly 8 euro an hour while she tries to get her studio off the ground.
I have friends who desperately wanted to move in together and start their life, but couldn’t find a bank that would give them a mortgage because both are on the above mentioned irregular contracts (which they’ve been on for more than 5 years, renewed each year).
I have a friend who left Italy because there just wasn’t work.
And to think that last year the Italian government launched a Fertility Day campaign encouraging Italians to get pregnant. Needless to say it wasn’t a huge success…
It’s no wonder Italians leave home and have their first child five years after the EU average. Hell, even Italy’s current Prime Minister candidate, Luigi di Maio with Movimento Cinque Stelle, lived at home until recently!
All that said, the American in me still doesn’t see any need for Italian mothers to still be doing their adult children’s laundry!
Read more about Italy’s job market and economy: