We know that millennials are living with their parents longer than previous generations. Thanks, outrageous rent! But there are other reasons, too. Generally, they’re waiting longer to get married and start families, and with Canada’s vast cultural diversity, multi-generational homes are becoming more common and people feel less inclined to move out immediately after graduating from postsecondary school.
But one thing’s for sure: they’re not staying home because they’re lazy.
“I think there are a lot of negative stereotypes we have about millennials being sort of lazy or entitled but if you ask people about their experiences, millennials are hustling,” Dr. Nancy Worth, an assistant professor in geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo and author of Gen Y: Understanding why young adults live with parents in Toronto, Canada, told HuffPost Canada “They’re trying really hard.”
“I think there are a lot of negative stereotypes we have about millennials being sort of lazy or entitled, but if you ask people about their experiences, millennials are hustling. They're trying really hard.”
Millennials are earning less than their parents
Millennials have been dubbed the “job-hopping generation.” While the stats don’t lie — millennials are moving from job to job more than previous generations — it should be pointed out that a high percentage of their employment comes from temporary or contract work, and they’re earning 20 per cent less than baby boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated.
According to a study conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in 2019, at least 40 per cent of Canadians ages 18-34 have participated in the gig economy in the past five years.
And contrary to the stigma that millennials are lazy, 87 per cent of people ages 25-44 were employed in 2018, a StatsCan report said. Unemployment for Canadians in that age group is also down: 5.1 per cent in 2018 compared to 6.4 per cent in 2014.
According to a 2016 StatsCan report, just over one-third of Canadians ages 20-34 were living with at least one parent, a number that’s been increasing since 2011. And 42.1 per cent of young adults in Ontario were living with their parents, representing the biggest percentage out of all the provinces and territories.
Young people are ‘delaying adulthood’
Silvia Bartolic, a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia, says that people — of all ages — often follow what others are doing.
“What becomes normative or average becomes the trend that people follow,” Bartolic told HuffPost Canada. “So if we go back a few generations, the normative thing to do was to finish high school and then get married and start a family.”
Today, the trend is to obtain post-secondary education, or master a trade, said Bartolic. “I’m not saying everyone does that, but we do see more and more young adults delaying, really entering adulthood, in the sense that they’re prolonging their time [at home through] education. So all of that is sort of pushing the timeline out farther,” said Bartolic. “And of course, it’s expensive, right?”
A 2018 Maclean’s magazine study, whose authors interviewed 23,384 students across the country, found that the average annual cost of post-secondary education in Canada was just under $20,000 a year, taking into account the cost of food, rent, transportation, etc. For those living at home, the average was $9,300 a year.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students, Canada’s national student loan debt was a whopping $15 billion in 2010. They reported that students in the Maritimes and Ontario were faced with the highest student debt, averaging $28,000 per student.
Canada’s National Observer found that Canadian students owed $28 billion in student debt to all levels of government in 2018.
Watch: Three trends you can expect from Canada’s housing market. Story continues below.
New government policy needed
Canadian real estate, especially in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver, have become increasingly unaffordable. The average cost of a one-bedroom unit in Toronto is $2,300, according to PadMapper. Vancouver isn’t far behind, at $2,150. For someone working part-time, or on contract, they’re facing the reality of either moving in with family to save money, or moving outside the city to somewhere more affordable.
And forget home ownership.
“I think it’s up to our government to recognize that housing is increasingly unaffordable for everybody,” said Worth. “If we want young people to become homeowners we need to really incentivize that or think about how housing and affordability works, especially as the gig economy becomes a new normal.”
“I think there is a wider government policy question that fits into this, because at the moment, the family is stepping in where the government has stepped back.”
To help alleviate soaring rental costs, the Ontario government signed on to receive help from the federal government to assist with low-income renters in December and support roughly 5,200 households province-wide following the announcement of a $1.4-billion rental housing benefit. But much still needs to be done.
Now that more millennials are living at home (whether forced to or not), we wondered what it was like sharing a space with their parents.
So, we talked to four Canadian millennials and asked them about how they ended up living with their parents, the challenges they face, and whether they can see themselves moving out on their own anytime soon.
Note: answers have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
What are your main reasons for living at home?
Poonam Patel, 33, Ottawa. Lives with her husband Ankoor’s parents, 91-year-old grandmother, and 15-month-old daughter. To support and be close to family.
Sydney Wettlaufer, 23, Mitchell, Ont. Lives with her dad. To save money and find a job in Toronto.
David Romanchik, 25, London, Ont. Lives with both parents. Saving money.
Olivia Slietesluk, 21, Woodstock, Ont. Lives with her dad. To save money and to pay off student loans.
Do you ever struggle to feel like an adult because you live at home?
David Romanchik: No. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m the youngest or because of the way my parents are, but they’ve always encouraged independence.
I do recognize there’s a difference between living with your parents and living on your own and there’s a ton of stuff that I maybe haven’t experienced yet, but it doesn’t make me not feel like an adult, it’s just weaknesses I know I’m going to have when I do move out.
Sydney Wettlaufer: Sometimes it definitely feels like I’m not where I thought I would be. When I look to my friends who are also 23 and see them be at a stage in their life where they’ve purchased their first home or they have a full-time job in their field, it is easy to feel like you are behind.
But I try to remind myself again there are these different circumstances that contribute to all of this and I can’t look at it as a personal shortcoming.
Olivia Slietesluk: Yeah for sure. It’s a bit frustrating sometimes, because once you finish school and you’ve lived away from home for three years, you kind of feel like you made it to a certain point. Then you back-tracked, because you’re depending on your family a little bit.
Poonam Patel: Before we actually got married my husband was like, ’I really want to stay with my parents. This had nothing to do with [finances], we could afford a place. It was more so, especially in Indian culture, you usually help out.
So, he thought that because his grandma was with him, there was no point in us moving out, because if we did move out, we eventually both agreed that when the time comes that when they [his parents] need our help, they would move in with us.
How do people react when you tell them you live with your parents?
David Romanchik: At work as soon as I say it, I feel like I have to justify and explain the whole situation. So even the ways I told you: I have a whole set-up; I have a living room; I have an office; I have all that. That’s almost rehearsed at this point. I feel like when it’s explained and discussed I don’t feel judged, but there’s definitely kind of a pressure before it’s out in the open.
Poonam Patel: I think there’s a negative stigma. In Canada, you hardly hear anyone say I live with my in-laws or I still live with my parents. Even in India now, not many people live with their in-laws. I could be speaking to a friend of mine that’s from the same culture and it’s [still] given a negative outlook.
When my husband tells his friends they’re like, ‘Really? How weird. When are you deciding to get your own place?’
When do you want to move out, if that’s your plan?
Poonam Patel: Right now, we’re able to manage. It’s nice that [the house is] big enough so that everyone gets their [own] space. It’s not like we’re in each other’s faces. There are six of us, including my daughter.
If we decide to have a second child then this place would be a little more difficult. We would have to look into a bigger place [for all of us] or we would get two homes that would be close in proximity. We want to be there for [my in-laws].
David Romanchik: The plan was to probably move out within the next year. Just to kind of experience that stuff that I was talking about.
If I live with a roommate, getting used to that cohabitation with someone who is not from your family, who has different habits and different lifestyle. As well as ... budgeting, so getting used to cooking for myself more often, rather than going out. And grocery shopping — that’s something I never do.
Sydney Wettlaufer: When I graduated I sat down with a financial advisor to figure out what I thought the next five years would look like for me and I decided that I am going to continue to apply for jobs in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
I am hoping that in the next few months I will get a job there and then my plan is to live in the GTA for three-to-five years after that. So hopefully go from renting an apartment to maybe even being a condo owner by the end.
What are the challenges of living with your parents?
Olivia Slietesluk: Probably the transition of when you live under your parents’ roof, you kind of have to do what they expect you to do, but when you live by yourself, you can do your own thing.
I was by myself for three years so I could go wherever I wanted and not tell anybody. Sometimes I go to someone’s house on the weekend and forget to text my dad and end up staying over, and then he texts me in the morning like, ‘Where are you?’ It’s hard for me to remember sometimes.
David Romanchik: Something I always had an issue with or didn’t like was that I got my career right out of school. So once I finished school I had a weekend and then I started my career in three days. I always kind of regretted it a little bit and wished I had asked for a delay.
It’s something that constantly comes up with my parents; where I say I would like to do some other stuff. [My mom] thinks I’m financially secure, so I shouldn’t take that leap. A lot of the time I feel like they care more about having bragging rights where they want to say: ‘Oh my son is a city engineer,’ rather than [have] me be happy.
What are the best parts about living with your parents?
Poonam Patel: That sense of family and togetherness. The more the merrier. You’re stronger together. We can support each other in the good and the bad. With my daughter we get a lot of support.
When I was three months postpartum, my mother-in-law would help. We would take turns. I would feed her and then she would put her to sleep. Not every mother-in-law is willing to do that, right? [That] sense of support is the biggest thing. We all are here to support each other.
David Romanchik: I would say how easy it is to live at home doesn’t have anything really to do with what I’ve done. It’s a lot of sacrifice on my parents’ part. Even though I’m getting to the age where I could live on my own, my parents go out of their way to make my home a better place for me to stay. They’re very OK with me staying home. They haven’t pushed me away by being too nosy.
Sydney Wettlaufer: I’ve always been really close to my dad and we get along really well. He’s been very supportive of my search for a job, but he’s never made me feel ashamed of living at home or discouraged me from staying if the job opportunity just isn’t there. It’s a really good environment to be in, in a time of your life when you never quite thought you’d be here.
“I would say how easy it is to live at home doesn’t have anything really to do with what I’ve done. It’s a lot of sacrifice on my parents' part.”
Is there anything else you want people to know about your experience?
Poonam Patel: I never thought in a million years I would be living with my in-laws. I don’t think anybody does. You have this idea of what your future is going to be. I’m more than grateful for what I have and how we’re able to manage with each other.
There are times where my husband and I both agree, ‘Oh, we do wish we lived on our own,’ but that’s in any situation.
Olivia Slietesluk: If you want to save some money and can’t afford to move out, then I’d say don’t feel bad about living at home. Everybody is in a different position. Some people have a lot of debt so they would be a good candidate to live at home for a bit. Don’t be embarrassed about it.
David Romanchik: For someone in their adult life to live at home successfully it’s up to both them and their parents. They both have to be very compatible for that situation as it’s a stressful, very hard-to-balance area.
I think as a young adult you have to recognize that if you’re not getting respect that it’s not beneficial for you to stay home. Even if it makes your debt stay around longer, it’s probably wiser to move out.
Also on HuffPost Canada: