THE BLOG

Budget Buries Boomerang Generation

19/03/2015 09:50 GMT | Updated 18/05/2015 10:59 BST

George Osborne hoovered up more of the grey vote with his budget giveaways and courted the thirty-somethings with a 'Help-to-Buy' ISA for first-time house purchases. But the Chancellor had nothing for the Boomerang Generation I thought as I recalled last week's lunch with a girlfriend.

'It was going so well', she beamed, describing a recent date. 'He took me to this amazing restaurant on the Southbank, then we had drinks at my favourite pub, walked along the river and talked for like two hours. He's really sweet and funny, he's got a cool job and I felt comfortable with him. There's just one thing. He's 31 and he lives at home...with his parents.'

I nodded in sympathy - there are few bigger turn-offs than knowing a guy's pants are washed and folded by his mum. But actually, my friend may have been a little harsh on him. He's just one of an estimated 3.3 million Britons between 20 and 34 who have returned to the familial nest, very few of them from choice. And the numbers of the so-called Boomerang Generation, who leave home for university or to start full time work and flat share with friends, colleagues or strangers, only to return home after a couple of years, is rapidly increasing as soaring rents outpace the growth in earnings.

There's a definite stigma surrounding stay at home adults as if they have failed some kind of life test. According to a study for ThinkMoney, a financial services company, 21% of adults wouldn't consider dating someone who still lives with mum and dad, and quarter of UK singles say 30 is the age at which living in the parental homes becomes 'sad'.

Unsurprisingly, women are more critical of the stay-at-homes, with 32% saying they wouldn't consider dating someone who lived with their parents compared with just 11% of men. Females may be more critical because a man living at home hardly lives up to the masculine ideal. It doesn't exactly scream sexy when a guy calls his mum mid-date to let her know he won't be home for dinner. Males, by contrast, have a totally different rating system for females, with living arrangements way down the list, if it figures at all. There's no doubt, though, that returning to the family fold after a date is a real passion killer for both sexes.

The female stay-at-home critics will be spurning even more dates in the future as increasing numbers of young males, who previously flat shared because they couldn't get on the property ladder, can now no longer afford rents, particularly in London and an increasing number of boom cities like Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol .... the list goes on.

We seem to be returning to the Britain of the 1950's when living with your parents until marriage, and often after you tied the knot, was the norm. Or to put a more positive spin on it, we are becoming more Mediterranean, catching up with Italy and to a lesser extent Spain, where people remain in the family home well into their thirties because it's part of their culture rather than an economic necessity. And when they do leave the nest to get married, most Italian males still live within a few kilometres of mama.

It's different in Northern Europe, particularly Germany where the majority still prefers renting to home ownership because rents are cheap due to tight controls and tenants enjoy security of tenure - it's almost impossible to be kicked out of a rented flat - that shames Britain's laissez faire system where the landlord reigns supreme. Sweden and the Netherlands have even tighter rent controls than Germany.

But Northern Europe is also seeing a surge in 'returnees' amid soaring property prices and rents - the Swedes have a word - mambo - for someone lives with mum.

While living with the folks is a convenient option for millions of adults today it can be a frustrating and ultimately demoralizing experience, putting a massive strain on you and your parents and making you feel as if you're stuck in a perpetual state of adolescence from which there is no way out.

And there was nothing in the budget that will make any difference. So maybe the returnees should join mum and dad on the electoral register and vote next time round.

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