Living With the Folks

Something strange is happening in Japan – and it’s not the Pen Pineapple Apple Pen kind. Huge waves of Japanese are…staying at home with their folks – more than 3 million singles aged 35 to 44, according to statistics. Which is surprising in a country that encourages such independence in their young children.

Sadly, as the Japanese economy slows, graduating from high school and college is no longer translating to steady employment in a factory or office like it did in their parents’ time. Many simply gave up job hunting after an unproductive 3-4 year search – 620,000 are unemployed or do irregular work. And according to researcher, once they hit their mid 30s, it’s more difficult to alter course, resulting in many living on their parents’ income and pensions.

A similarly scary situation is unfolding in South Korea, as the last quarter century (1985-2010) saw the proportion of households with unmarried children aged 25 and above spike from 9% to 26%. Korean parents in this position find themselves shelling out an average of 740,000 won (S$904) to support their adult children every month. Yikes!

Finally as parents delay retirement to help support their kids, they may actually be making the problem worse by tying up job positions that could go to the younger generation… which makes their parents work even longer, and on it goes. There are rough times ahead.

Locally, when this news report was posted online with the words: “Why are young Asian adults still living with their parents?” it sparked a mini-debate about the inter-generational household – did “Under One Roof” really send the right message? Some users didn’t think so:


Most defended the generational household as a good part of Asian culture:


And good or bad, some simply found moving out impractical (the quintessential Singaporean response).



Statistically, local sentiments slightly favour staying with parents even after marriage.

In a 2014 survey of 2,000 people, 55% of unmarried Singaporeans said they planned to stay with parents even after they tied the knot. An online survey found that among dating couples, the top reason cited for wanting to move out after marriage was independence and privacy (41%) – coincidentally also the top reason cited among seniors for wanting to live apart from their married children (44%).

The two generations also mostly agreed on how far they wished to live apart. 72% of dating couples who wished to move out still wanted to live close by their parents, a feeling mirrored by 63% of seniors who wanted to live in the same neighbourhood or closer with their adult children.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder – but in Singapore, proximity matters too.

By Vincent Tan