Hoping to reverse a trend of young men clinging to their parents' nest, the Italian government has decided to offer financial incentives to help young adults leave home earlier. Italy's finance minister has set funds aside in the country's 2008 budget to help young Italians move out earlier. But many do not believe the assistance will be sufficient or will change what is also considered a cultural phenomenon. Sabina Castelfranco reports for the VOA from Rome.
Roughly eight out of ten Italians under age 30 still live at home, and the average age for moving out is 36.
Italian men are the bulk of those who stay with their parents, at around 67 percent. Women tend to get married and then move away from home.
The reluctance of young men to leave their parents' home is a matter that has raised the concern of the government, prompting it to act.
Italy's Finance Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa recently said that when young people stay with their parents, they do not get married or become independent. Experts have said the trend is costing Italy in growth and innovation. Franco Ferrarotti is a sociology professor at the University of Rome.
"It's a very difficult problem to tackle, because it's really both an economic and social, and psychological, anthropological problem," he said.
Many men in their 30s cite the high cost of living and the lack of jobs as the main reasons keeping them from leaving their parents' home.
"Nowadays especially in metropolitan areas, it's very difficult to find a decent apartment for a decent rent, apartments come very expensive and there is no job, very few jobs, very few let's say what the Italians love, a 'posto fisso,' a permanent job, a job for life," he said.
Ferrarotti says no one has a permanent job anymore.
Ferrarotti says the center-left government is full of good intentions. Minister Padoa-Schioppa announced that part of a $2 billion Euro allotment in the government's 2008 budget would be used to help young Italians who move out.
Under-30s with low salaries will be offered tax relief. In addition, the government will pay 19 percent of the cost of rental housing for university students living far from home.
Marco Olivieri, 32, says he has not yet felt the need to move out.
He says he is happy living with his parents in Rome. He says rents are high and his salary at the headhunting company where he works is too low to afford either a rental or a mortgage. So he prefers being at home with mom and dad.
Alberto D'Anna, 41, works at his family's antique shop. He moved out but then returned home because he had financial issues. He says Italians find it more difficult to find well-paying jobs and reasonable housing than young people in other European countries.
Salaries of Italians between ages 25 and 30 are half of those in some other European countries. European Union figures show that 56% of Italian 25 to 30-year-olds live with their parents, compared to 21% of Germans and five per cent of Swedes.
However, Marco Olivieri says there are other reasons that keep him from moving out.
He says his mother washes his clothes, cooks for him and makes his bed.
Sociologist Ferrarotti agrees that part of the problem lies with Italian mothers.
"Italian mothers are so important. They are really also responsible for some of the retarded, regressive attitudes of their sons," he said. "They love to iron their shirts, to wash and iron their underwear. It's incredible. It does not happen anywhere else in the world."
Giuseppina Sganga is Alberto's mother. She doesn't see a problem with children staying at home until their 30s or 40s.
Sganga wonders why should this be seen as a problem. "If a young man is happy at home, why should he leave?" she asked.
Sganga, her son Alberto and Marco Olivieri are skeptical about the government's planned assistance. Marco says he does not believe the incentives will be sufficient to make moving out worthwhile.
Of the young people who do manage to leave home, 40 percent go back because they cannot manage financially.