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Home > Special Topics > Social Trends Last Updated: 15:18 03/09/2007
Social Trends #62: December 4, 2003

Youth Trends in Japan:
Part Six Britain's "Kippers" Rival Japan's "Parasite Singles"

J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM)

A full list of articles in this series can be found here.

In most European Union countries the steady rise in the number of young people who have not departed the family home by their mid-twenties is becoming an increasingly visible phenomenon. This social shift has also become the subject of an expanding body of European research literature. In November 2003, a new set of data on the trend was published by the Prudential, a UK-based financial services group. It estimates that there are approximately 6.8 million British adults who are currently living at home with their parents.

In Japan, the move toward adult offspring remaining in the family home for an extended period was highlighted by Masahiro Yamada. He vigorously promoted the term "parasite single" to describe this emerging trend. In his book the "Age of Parasite Singles" (Parasaito shinguru no jidai), he erroneously claims that the "parasite single" phenomenon is uniquely Japanese. Until the Prudential report, the only uniquely Japanese aspect of Yamada's work was the catchy, and rather unkind, term "parasite single". However, in its new survey the Prudential coins a rival term "kippers" (kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings).

Some time before the new label was created, "kippers" had already become an established part of British family life for which there is even a growing financial services market. For example, in England a popular TV advertisement shows a young man walking along the street as hundreds of one pound coins drop from his trousers. A voice-over reminds parents how much money young people consume and the need for financial products to fund their activities and needs.

While British parents have more or less resigned themselves to the prospect of their offspring leaving the family nest much later than in previous generations, what the Prudential's new research findings highlight is that a lot of these "young people" are less than youthful. Surprisingly, more than a million "kippers" are approaching their 40th birthday.

Despite having jobs, about 60% of these "adult children" live at home without paying any form of rent. Of the few that do pay, most are only charged about ₤95 a week or less, which is well below the current market rate. No, or little, rent makes it less attractive to move out, which encourages offspring to stay longer. There are also several other benefits to be gained from living at home.

According to the Prudential report, over the past twelve months, almost 500,000 out of the estimated 6.8 million "kippers" have been given a lump sum of money by their parents. This has ranged from between ₤10,000 to ₤20,000 British pounds. An additional 20,000 "kippers" were even luckier receiving the massive figure of about ₤50,000 from their parents. Many parents surveyed hoped that this large cash injection would encourage their offspring to fly the family nest. The Prudential estimates that about ₤20 billion has been given to these "adult children" by parents in just the last twelve months.

The report lists a variety of reasons why parents give their offspring cash, these include weddings, education, house deposits, travel and car purchase (see table below). The survey also indicates that it is not only live-in "adult children" that receive financial assistance from their parents. Roughly four out of ten parents continue to bankroll their offspring even after they eventually abandoned the family home.

Reasons why British parents gave their offspring money in 2003
 Reason for giving moneyNumber of recipients
1Long-term savings account or investment productAbout 8.72 million
2Further educationAbout 7.9 million
3Car purchaseAbout 6.49 million
4WeddingAbout 6.14 million
5Deposit for a homeAbout 4.89 million
6TravelAbout 3 million
7Gap yearAbout 2 million
8Pension planAbout 1 million
Source: The Prudential (November 2003) http://www.prudential.co.uk/

Although there were many factors behind the reluctance of "kippers" to leave the family home, the main reason cited in the Prudential report was the high cost of purchasing a home in the United Kingdom. In recent years UK house prices have skyrocketed, making it almost impossible for young people to purchase a place of their own. High property prices have also been mentioned as a chief factor behind Ireland's growing ranks of "parasite singles". In Japan and Italy youth unemployment is another key element hindering young people from setting up an independent household.

The new Prudential findings build on other research presented in this series and clearly demonstrate that the so called "parasite singles" phenomenon is definitely not unique to Japan. In many industrially advanced countries adult offspring living with their parents is rapidly becoming the norm.

Other Articles in Youth Trends in Japan Series can be found here.

Related Series

The Declining Birthrate in Japan
Trends in Japanese Higher Education
Family Trends in 2003

Useful References

After the Prudential released its report, the BBC posted the comments of a number of "kippers" about their views on the issue. See the following link:

The Kippers Who Won't Leave Home,
BBC World, Monday, 17 November 2003

The Prudential

How Kippers Keep Parents Poorer
Sky News, Monday 17 November 2003

Parents Pay Dear as Kippers refuse to sever Home Ties
The Telegraph, Monday 17 November 2003

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