Why Italian men won’t leave the nest

Marketplace Staff Nov 22, 2007

Why Italian men won’t leave the nest

Marketplace Staff Nov 22, 2007


Scott Jagow: In Italy, men stay at home. And by that, I mean they live with their parents. A third of Italian men over 30 still live with mama and papa.

The country’s economic minister wants them out of the house. He’s proposing a $1,500 tax break for young Italians who rent. But he’s taking some serious heat for calling these men “big babies.”

Let’s bring in our correspondent in Rome, Megan Williams. Megan, that’s quite a statistic. Why do a third of Italian men live with their parents?

Megan Williams: Well, there’re sort of two big reasons. I mean, one of them is the cultural reason — it’s a southern Mediterranean country, so it’s the culture of the family. Independence isn’t really valued that much here. And the fact that you don’t move out, there’s no shame associated with it. So that’s a big part of it. But the economy is really blocked in Italy, and especially for young people, the chance of even finding not a decent job, but realizing that you’re gonna segue out of that to something better just doesn’t exist here.

Jagow: Well, Megan, it may be no shame, but the Italian economics minister calls them “big babies.”

Williams: Well, I mean, people love to make fun of them, yeah. I mean, there’s that “bamboccioni” or the other word that people use all the time is “mamoni,” Mama’s boy. But it does belittle the economic reality of it.

Jagow: Is there any chance that this idea of a tax break will go over?

Williams: I don’t think so. I mean, you know, a tax break of what, $1,500? That’s going to help someone for a month, maybe, or two months? You need a total overhaul in this country of the labor codes. You need to be able to allow small and medium-sized companies, which are the backbone of the Italian company, to be able to hire and let people go when they need to. Right now, these companies aren’t hiring anybody, because it’s impossible to let anybody go. So what’s happening is the workers are paying the price, because they’re getting jobs under the table, they have no job security — they’re being exploited. And that’s what’s happening, especially to young people in this country.

Jagow: Is the Italian government or these companies doing anything to help the situation?

Williams: Well, the political pressure is mounting, but Italy just hasn’t been able to make that transition into a modern economy. And when we talk about these mamoni and kids staying at home so late, it’s kind of funny on one level, but it really does represent a huge and growing problem in this country, which is that there are no jobs for young people.

Jagow: All right, Megan Williams in Rome. Thanks for joining us.

Williams: Thanks, Scott.

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