The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Young people – Community work and empty nests

Friday, 14 June 2019, 08:49 Last update: about 2 months ago

A senior lecturer at the University of Malta has suggested that young people should take a gap year when reaching 18 years of age to carry out community work. Her idea is for them to take a break from their studies at the end of post-secondary education before taking on courses at tertiary level, or before moving on to their first job.

It is not a bad idea. But making it compulsory would be too imposing on our younger generations. They should, however, be greatly encouraged to do so. There is a need for them to understand that not everyone has been as lucky as they have been. Their experience with people in need, be they children or elderly, be they poor or disabled, and be it in Malta or abroad, will be invaluable in their transition from childhood to adulthood. It will help them grow in the real sense of the word.

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One hurdle – and a big one at that – that needs to be overcome if we want more young people to take up the lecturer’s suggestion is the dependability that our younger generations still have on their parents. Our young people are living so comfortably that it is next to impossible for them to take up the idea of making sacrifices, even if this is intended for their own good.

Recent statistics published by Eurostat show that, on average, Maltese young adults leave their parents’ home when nearly aged 32, which is the highest age registered in the European Union. There is a big difference between what Maltese young adults do when compared to their European counterparts – young people leave home at the earliest in three Nordic member states, Sweden at 21, Denmark at 21.1 and Finland and 21.9, as well as Luxembourg, at 21.4. The difference is more than 10 years, a huge one indeed.

It is very clear that Maltese young adults find it convenient to remain living with their parents, with most of them not paying rent and not even contributing to the daily expenses, be it energy and water, food and drink, home maintenance and other costs. Many return home from their studies or jobs and do not even bother to offer to help out, whether it’s with the cooking or other domestic chores.

One can argue that, in a time when buying or renting property is at an all-time high, it is hard for young adults to set up their own home. But Maltese young adults staying on at their parents’ home longer than their European counterparts is not a new phenomenon. It has been like this forever, even because Malta’s small size does not impose on anyone to leave home to go to university or change jobs, as happens in larger countries.

This situation is probably not ideal, given also that there could be friction between the parents and the children because of different lifestyles and the youngsters’ lack of cooperation. But it could be that later on the parents would end up missing those days when their homes were “occupied” by their children. The empty nest syndrome is not a pleasant experience, and the loneliness that the parents could feel, especially when they retire and would love to have some company, could at times be unbearable.

Like most things in life, it’s a question of balance and compromise. But we do have one word of advice to young people – do take up the lecturer’s suggestion and, if you intend to live with your parents until you’re 32, try to be of assistance, not an added burden.

 

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