News stories like this are a gemn for sociologists. They basically skim the surface of some really interesting dynamics and deliver only a very narrow insight as to what is at hand.
My immediate reaction to this news is that 3 Million 25-35 year-olds are actually in the midsts of ‘emerging adulthood’ popularised by Jeffrey Arnett. This posits that contemporary living facilitates young people’s gradual ascent into adulthood. The relaxation of certain social conventions regarding marriage, financial concerns, and the overall change in employment patterns from life-long careers to ambiguous nonconformist career trajectories and modes of work, has meant that adulthood arrives later.
The defining characteristic of adulthood for many of the people in Arnett’s work is that it is signified by the responsibility of being a parent. As that occurs ever later in Western nations like the UK, adulthood is delayed.
It is a social shift that has been taking place for the last 15-20 years. It also calls into question the make-up of the nuclear family and what parenthood means when your 30 year-old hasn’t moved out of their bedroom yet.
Financial constraints are a huge issue, but in part they mystify some of the other issues. Young people are getting in debt, but they aren’t necessarily doing that setting up a family. The emerging adult is not necessarily saving for the future.
As I consider this story in the Hong Kong context it takes on a wildly different meaning. There is simply not the same expectation that children will move out when they become adults. Similarly the financial pressures in Hong Kong to set up your own home are an incredible challenge not simply for young people, but even for married professional couples with no children