In the late 90s there was a social phenomenon that made a big impression on the media called parasite singles. These were mostly young women who held full-time jobs but still lived at home with the folks because it was more comfortable–mom cooked and cleaned, and while many of these singles contributed to the household funds, it wasn’t nearly as much as they would have spent had they lived on their own, renting their own apartments. Consequently, they had lots of disposable income to spend on clothing and travel. Many got married, but many didn’t, because they basically had it pretty good, especially women. Who wanted to pick up after and cook for a husband?
The term parasite single passed out of common usage after the turn of the century, which isn’t to say that young people weren’t living at home any more. Unlike in the West, where it’s something of a rite of passage to go out on one’s own into the world after graduating from high school or college, in Japan young people will stay at home, if it’s possible, until they marry. And when it’s not possible because of the work situation, traditionally one’s employer provided housing until one got married, had a family, and bought a house of one’s own (with a loan from the company). It’s only been in the past 20 years or so, as companies have decreased benefits, that “freshman” workers have had to look for their own accommodations. But that era of independence already seems to be coming to an end.
In a survey of 900 freshmen employees conducted by Next and Mainichi Communications, only 15.9% of the respondents said they would rent their own apartments. Last year, the percentage was about 25. Since few companies provide workers with company housing any more, it’s assumed that the bulk of the remaining 84% will be living at home. Though the survey doesn’t say so, it seems obvious that new workers are staying at home for financial reasons, but like the parasite singles, they may find the comfort and ease of being taken care of by the folks a lulling experience. Who wants to get married and take on responsibility?