New generations often get categorized with specific labels. Those born in the 1980s and early 1990s have now reached that age whereby many desire to be materially independent of their parents and live their own lives. Many parents have seen their children leave home in the hope of such a future; however, difficult circumstances have seen many young adults subsequently return to their parents' homes. This pattern has prompted Western countries to dub this cohort the boomerang generation.
This social change was first observed in the United States. As surveys have shown, the number of young people, ranging between the ages of 18 to 34, now cohabitating with their parents comprises almost 40%. Such a trend is common in European states too. The share of youth cohabitating with parents has increased and now stands at 67% in Spain and 60.7% in Italy. One should also take into account that in some countries living with parents, and multi-generational families in general, are seen as a norm and part of tradition. As Georgia belongs to that category of countries, no one is surprised about the existence of multi-generational families here.
In the West, however, where the youth have always aspired towards independent lives and where leaving their parents' homes after reaching a certain age is considered a norm, the above mentioned tendency has turned into a big headache. People have been left wondering what might have caused this social and cultural change. Moreover, it is hard to imagine that people of different generations do not find cohabitation difficult because of intergenerational differences in mindsets that might complicate the relationship. The results of surveys, however, show a different picture: the majority of young adults who returned home after a period of independent living are happy about their decision.
This satisfaction may be caused by the fact that the lives of the boomerang generation often become easier after they return to their parents' homes. They might no longer spend as much resources and time on daily chores as they did when living alone. By rejoining their families they regress to their childhood and start living at the expense of their parents, thus turning into a form of parasite for their families. Psychologists offer numerous explanations for this phenomenon; firstly, they portray the generation as victims of their upbringing. They believe that these young people either lacked adequate attention in their childhood, which made them return to the fold in later life, or vice versa, they enjoyed such constant care from their parents, who used to settle all of their problems, that they find it difficult to adjust to the real world. However, surveys show that after returning home young people do not behave like total parasites: a large segment of them pay rent in their parents' homes and assist them in paying utility fees. The majority of such individuals work at least part time or are active job-seekers. There are, of course, exceptions to this.
This trend is a unique example of how different generations assist one another. It might be very surprising, but an intergenerational difference in mindsets does not seem to be very noticeable. Otherwise, cohabitation would be very difficult and conflict-prone. Although the parents belong to the so-called Baby Boom generation, whilst their children to the Millennial generation, it came to pass that there is no great cultural difference between their mindsets. A large segment of representatives of these two generations were brought up with similar values; they listen to similar music, watch similar movies, and often even share similar political views. In due time, the baby boomers achieved sexual freedom and thus this issue does not represent a matter of contention between the generations either. These cultural similarities contribute to the solidity of modern families in Western countries. Perhaps, it is these very similarities that helped give rise to the boomerang generation.
It is, however, absurd for an individual to reject their independent life and to return to their parents merely because they adapt well to them. One of the main causes of this tendency must be sought in those economic difficulties that the boomerang generation had to go through. First there was the crisis of the early 2000s, then the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. According to a Pew Research Center survey called "Young, Underemployed and Optimistic," which was conducted in the United States in 2011, the economic crisis delivered the hardest blow to that generation now referred to as the boomerang generation. The indicator of employment on the labor market proves this fact. The survey showed that only 54% of people aged 18 to 34 are employed, which is a very low indicator. As public opinion polls show, the majority of the US population believes that it is much harder for young people to find jobs than it was for their parents, i.e. the generation of baby boomers. Today, the problem of unemployment for young people is compounded by increased costs of living. Saving enough money to buy an apartment or establish their own family remains an unattainable dream even for the employed youth. Adult life starts at a later time for them. After each unsuccessful attempt at starting an independent life, they go back to their parents and continue their more infantile style of living.
This problem is so acute that the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi even offered a national program to the population that envisaged providing a monthly payment of 500 euros to the youth, provided that they leave their parents' homes. However, it is unlikely for a typical Italian "bamboccione," who having turned 40 continues living with his parents, to exchange the comfort that his family creates even for 500 euros.
The example of Italy, a country where cohabitation with parents is a tradition and where no societal age limit is set after which a young person should leave home, very much resembles that of Georgia. For many years it was considered very strange for a young Georgian to decide to live independently from his/her parents and to materially sustain him/herself. This might be the result of conservative reasoning among society. The situation was further aggravated by the turnaround that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. The change in the state and system of living made it difficult for older generations to adapt to novelties, whilst the younger generation lacked experience. Moreover, a certain amount of distancing from Western traditions had always been felt in Georgian parent-child relationships.
As in many countries worldwide, the employment of younger generations is also a problem in Georgia. According to a survey conducted by the National Statistics Office of Georgia in 2012, the rate of unemployment is highest among people aged 15 to 19, standing at 36.9%. The corresponding indicator in the 20-24 category is 32.2%. As the age of people increases, the level of unemployment gradually decreases. There are various reasons behind these figures. To some extent, this situation is conditioned by a lack of desire among young people to gain employment or them making unrealistic assessments of their qualifications at a given moment. They often reject concrete jobs thinking that they deserve a better one and, while waiting for high positions, continue to depend on their parents. This process of waiting can continue for years and rarely brings about any result. On the other hand, employers themselves place unrealistic requirements on young people. The largest problem, in my view, is the requirement for experience. Employers do not need inexperienced youth. Nor do universities care much about offering practical knowledge to students. In Davos, Switzerland, an original solution has been found to the problem of youth unemployment. Young people have been offered jobs without salaries. The idea of this proposition is to enable youth to gain experience, thereby helping them secure their future places on the labor market.
Despite the economic and youth employment problems in Georgia, a culture of independent living has gradually been formed in recent years. But this has not yet become a mass phenomenon for Georgian society. Because young people leaving their parents' homes has not yet been formed into a tradition, it is difficult for children to make such a decision, whilst parents take exception to such moves. Georgian parents constantly try to settle the problems of their children and do not understand that they are thus impeding their children's development into independent personalities who are responsible for themselves. While in the West the boomerang generation leave home and only return after unsuccessful attempts at independence, in Georgia younger people are not even able to take the first step of leaving their parents' homes, let alone getting to the point of returning there.
While Georgian society is slowly shifting towards the Western model of living, the West is changing its model. In the opinion of sociologist Katherine Newman, who wrote a book about the boomerang generation entitled The Accordion Family, the West has changed its mindset. If intergenerational cohabitation was considered dysfunctional in the past, it is now gradually becoming a norm, regardless of the fact that many criticize such a style of living. Newman contends that it is still premature to speak about cultural changes as too little time has passed since the emergence of this phenomenon, but changes may indeed occur if this tendency persists over the next ten years.
We might explain the emergence of the boomerang generation problem according to the methods of upbringing, the excessive care of parents, or many other psychological factors, but we cannot avoid the fact that prodigal sons are returning home due to economic problems. This is also proved by the fact that in countries such as Denmark and Sweden, where it is not only acceptable for the youth to live independently, but they also get material assistance from the state, the problem of the boomerang generation does not exist In these countries the state allocates subsidies for the education and accommodation of the youth. In such a setting, they are more independent and rarely return to their parents' homes. Under the current economic situation it would be difficult to demand such youth subsidies from the Georgian state, but we must ponder on whether it is worth living in a society in which the gaze of the youth is constantly directed towards the past and the previous generation.