So what is a Nini? In Spanish it is short for “Ni trabajo ni estudios” or “no work nor studies” and is a word to describe the generation of young people in Spain living at home with their parents until their 30s or 40s, a generation without higher studies and without incentive to work.
Today we will look at the phenomenon of Ninis in Spain.
Adults living at home with their parents
When I moved to Spain I encountered the phenomenon of young people being utterly content living at home until their 30s or 40s. I was shocked as I had come from the UK where young people leave home at 18 years of age to go to University and often move into flatshares and become independent, often taking on part time jobs to provide extra income.
This concept is utterly alien in Spain. In fact, Spanish people have told me with abject horror that parents in the UK, Northern Europe and USA don’t love their families the way Spanish people do, they perceive the fact that young people become independent at 18 as a cruelty inflicted on poor defenseless teens.
This conflict of thoughts was clearly defined in the reaction to a story that broke out in the US: Parents sue their 30 year old unemployed son to force him to move out of their house. The Judge ruled that it was high time for Michael Redondo to move out of his parent’s basement and make a living. Reading the comments and reactions when the article hit Spanish and International press was like night and day: the Spanish commenters lamented how cruel his parents were to kick out their son at the tender young age of 30, whilst in most international newspapers he was labeled a loser or deadbeat.
In Spain, most people comfortably live at home and live off their parents well past their expiry date. Obviously, there are many perks: free rent, free food, pocket money, no need to do any household chores or cleaning. But at what cost? The result seems to be a generation of young people who don’t seem to be capable of performing the most basic survival skills such as cooking, cleaning or putting on the washing machine.
In most cases, Spanish people treat their children who are in their 20s and 30s as children, and encourage them to stay at home and wait on them hand and foot.
So why does this happen? Well a lot of it has to do with culture:
Spanish people move out of home when they marry or buy a house:
traditionally in Spain, young people were encouraged to move out when they could buy their very own house and their parents would support them until they were able to do so. You often hear the trope that renting is “pouring money down the drain” and the concept of house-sharing was until recently, unthinkable.
I always found this argument somewhat dubious, when those who work state that they do not have the money to move out and become independent which contradicts the fact that most Europeans move out to student residences at 18 (with the help of their parents, of course) but become independent shortly after by taking on part-time jobs.
Most of the expats I have met in Madrid did not come from extremely wealthy backgrounds, yet still manage to live in Madrid without their parent’s help. This is achieved by sharing flats and houses with others and working, sometimes jobs that are not ideal but that mean you can make it to the end of the month. For me the excuse that Spaniards can’t move out of their family home because they can’t afford a house seems like a weak excuse to me.
Due to the crisis and the increasing prices of housing, young Spaniards have recently had to adapt to house-sharing or living at home with their parents because it has now become almost impossible to gather together the means to put down the deposit on a house. This is due to
The salaries in Spain are abysmal. In fact, generation Xers and millenials are the first generations to live in conditions that are worse than previous generations, higher rates of unemployment and if you are lucky to find a job, you will be earning less money than their parents did, making owning a property a distant dream.
Before the crisis, 1000 euros a month was considered a low salary. Now young people aspire to earn 1000 euros, or become “milleuristas” as most work contracts are unstable, providing only meager salaries of 700 or 800 euros a month, completely out of sync with the high cost of living and rent in cities like Madrid and Barcelona.
Also in Spain, the home is ruled by the
Though Spain is a male-dominated society in most aspects, the home is ruled by the mother. Here in Spain, mothers often create a dependency with their children to ensure that they don’t leave home. They don’t teach their children to cook, don’t oblige them to clean and wait after them and give them the five star hotel treatment. By creating a dependency, they ensure that their children don’t leave the nest.
They not only discourage their children from moving out by making home so comfortable and appealing, they also say things like “don’t take that job, it’s beneath you” or “why move out of home when you have everything here?” The need to overprotect their young has spawned the phenomenon of dependent adults and ninis.
For those that manage to leave the nest, they are still bound by the dependency with their mothers. I have heard some students in their 30s and 40s boast about how they have never even fried an egg, or told me without shame about how they bring their laundry home to their mother and that their mother makes them a week or a month’s worth of tuppers to live on because they don’t know how to cook.
This behaviour is often counter-productive, as surely the purpose of being a parent is to create capable, educated adults who can contribute to society and take care of themselves?
So where do ninis come in?
According to this article in El Pais, 17% of all young people in Spain are Ninis. Let that sink in for a moment. 1 in 5 young Spanish people between 18 and 24 years old have never studied nor worked, but just sponge off their parents. 5.5 million young people doing absolutely nothing. The equivalent of an entire population of Slovakia or Finland.
Spain is not the only country where this happens, Italy leads with 25.7% of young people without any professional goals, followed by Cyprus (22%), Greece (21.4%), Croatia (20,2%), Romania (19,3%)Bulgaria(18,6%).
Spain is apparently among the top 13 countries in the world where this phenomenon prevails.
Ceuta y Melilla, Andalucía, Extremadura y Baleares are the autonomous communities in Spain with the highest number of ninis.
So why are there so many? Experts cite the economic crisis as the reason for this phenomenon, others say that the reason is the instability of temporary contracts.
One Think Tank believes that the needs of companies have grown faster than the National educational programs can adapt, leaving many people with obsolete degrees and unable to find work.
Public money designated for education is lower than many countries. Out of the 68% of money allocated to education, 32% is designated to private education leaving public schooling far behind countries like Finland and Norway, where 96% of the funds are allocated to public education.
One of the speculated causes was the golden age of the “ladrillo” or “brick” prior to the cirsis, where many young people left their studies to work in sectors such as construction, in pursuit of fast money. People who left to work as builders earned a lot of money during the construction boom in Spain but were left in the dust when the crisis struck and construction projects dried up.
Another reason may be that the trap of internships, which exists in many countries, where opportunities only exist for young people whose parents can afford to support them while they work for companies that pay them little or no money for internships. The high rate of unemployment combined with the difficulty in finding jobs and the comforts of home and supportive parents lead young people to choose the easy life of a nini.
These situations have compounded to create a lost generation, some of whom have no ambition other than to leech off their families with no goals of their own; others who are highly qualified but cannot earn enough to be financially secure.
The future is bleak for young people in Spain. With rampant short-term, temporary and unstable contracts and low salaries, more and more young Spanish people will be living with their parents until middle age, this is not a phenomenon which will end any time soon.
What do you think? Why do you think there are so many ninis in Spain?