More Australian adult children are living with their parents longer

Australian parents are waiting longer for an empty nest as their adult children are living under the same roof for longer, finds the annual HILDA survey

Sarah Marinos, University of Melbourne

Published 12 February 2024

Australia’s young adults are putting their traditional steps towards adulthood on hold – spending more time living in the parental home.

In fact, just over half of young men (54 per cent) and 47 per cent of young women aged 18 to 29 years old are still living under the same roof as their parents.

Social and economic forces have driven an increase in the number of young adults living with their parents. Picture: Getty Images

There are a number of factors preventing young Australians from gaining their first foothold on the property ladder – many young Aussies are taking longer to find their feet in the workforce, incomes are falling and cost-of-living is going up.

The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey finds this ‘seismic shift’ in the nature of Australian households that began in the early 2000s is continuing, says Professor Roger Wilkins, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research and HILDA Survey Co-Director.

“The social and economic forces that have driven an increase in the number of young adults living with their parents are still present,” he says.

“We’ve seen a rise in higher education participation, declining full-time employment opportunities for young people, a rising cost in housing, and a trend towards later marriage and family formation.

“The traditional markers of adulthood are happening later in life now.”

The HILDA Survey follows the lives of more than 17,000 Australians each year, over the course of their lifetime, collecting information on many aspects of life in Australia, including household and family relationships, income and employment, and health and education.

A narrowing gap

The latest HILDA data was collected in 2021 and found a slight bump in the number of 26- to 29-year-olds living with parents during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was mostly due to fewer Australians in that age group deciding to leave home.

Falling incomes and cost-of-living hikes are preventing young Australians gaining their foothold on the property ladder. Picture: Getty Images

The data also shows that the gap between the number of young men and women living out of the parental home is narrowing. In 2001, 47 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women aged 18 to 29 years lived with their parents.

In 2021, that 11 per cent difference narrowed to eight per cent.

HILDA finds men in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales are more likely to live with their parents than men in other states and territories. Meanwhile, women in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are less likely to live with their parents – although the reasons for these patterns aren’t clear.

Men employed full-time are less likely to live with their parents, but women who work part-time are more likely to live in the family home than unemployed women. Again, the reasons for these differences are not known.

Who’s doing the housework?

What is the impact of a ‘full nest’, rather than an ‘empty nest’, on family dynamics?

Lyn Craig, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, says, in short, this living situation generally means more housework for Mum.

“Compared to young adults living alone or in a share house, those living with parents are much less likely to do the same amount of domestic labour.

This living situation generally means more housework for Mum. Picture: Getty Images

“Parents living with young adults do more housework. This living arrangement doesn’t turn into a flatmate situation, it typically creates more housework for Mum,” says Professor Craig.

Maybe baby…

More importantly, she highlights a more serious implication for young people who are living at home for longer – whether by choice or because they cannot afford to live independently.

“While we are living longer so we have time to stretch out and slow events and transitions during our life course – one thing we can’t really slow is fertility.

“So, there may be implications for young people being able to embark on the great adventure of parenthood,” says Professor Craig.

“Since the mid-20-teens, fertility has fallen below replacement in Australia for the first time and I think that has something to do with the price of housing and young people not being able to afford to establish an independent household away from parents.”

Living at home… in europe

In some parts of the world, it is common for adult children to remain at home for longer.

A Eurostat report found that in the EU in 2021, males left the parental household at an average age of 27.4 years and females at 25.5 years.

What is the impact of a ‘full nest’, rather than an ‘empty nest’, on family dynamics? Picture: Getty Images

Men left the parental home after the age of 30 in 11 EU countries — Croatia, Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, Spain, Romania and Poland.

So is Australia heading the same way?

Having fun while they can

Professor Wilkins and Professor Craig believe the delay in young people taking traditional steps towards adulthood shouldn’t be viewed solely through a negative lens.

“Some young people would like to start their adulthood journey and to have their own home but Australia’s economic conditions aren’t allowing that.

“Policy action to make housing more affordable and to increase housing supply is a clear way to tackle that,” says Professor Wilkins.

“On the positive side, as a richer society with longer life expectancy, perhaps some young people are making a rational and conscious choice to delay getting into the hard yakka of life.

“They decide to enjoy themselves and have some fun while they are still young.

“As a whole, baby boomer parents are also a relatively wealthy cohort, so their capacity and preparedness to house their kids into adulthood has increased. Perhaps it’s not the imposition it once was on parents who were more constrained economically.”

Adult children staying at home longer may come with some strains, but it can also solve some problems. Picture: Getty Images

Subsidising and stepping in

Professor Craig says accommodating adult children at home is one way in which families today are providing financial support to children who are struggling to gain a financial foothold.

If the bank of mum-and-dad can’t stretch to providing a loan or deposit for a first home, then subsidising adult children to live at home at no or low cost while they try to establish themselves is something many parents are happy to do.

“The adaptation of families is impressive,” she says.

“Whatever families do and whatever situation they face, many of them step in and do good things for each other.

“Adult children staying at home longer may come with some strains, but it can also solve some problems.”

Banner: Getty Images

Find out more about research in this faculty

Business & Economics

Content Card Slider

Content Card Slider

Subscribe for your weekly email digest

By subscribing, you agree to our

Acknowledgement of country

We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of the unceded lands on which we work, learn and live. We pay respect to Elders past, present and future, and acknowledge the importance of Indigenous knowledge in the Academy.

Read about our Indigenous priorities
Phone: 13 MELB (13 6352) | International: +61 3 9035 5511The University of Melbourne ABN: 84 002 705 224CRICOS Provider Code: 00116K (visa information)