Singaporean youth take off on their own

When Alan, a civil servant, decided to leave his family home in Singapore, it took another month to bring up the subject with his parents. He was afraid that they wouldn’t understand or, worse yet, get upset.

After all, Alan’s house was a nice place. The family’s three-bedroom complex, where his younger brother also lives, was not far from the city’s central business district (CBD), where many of his favorites were. There was a homemade dinner on the table every night, and his laundry was always cleaning up for him. “There was no push factor, just pull factors,” he says. “I’ve lived with my parents my whole life, so I just wanted to experience what it’s like to be alone, you know?”

In the West, leaving home is just another milestone in adulthood. However, in most Asian societies it is not culturally acceptable. Getting out of the house is sometimes seen as showing disrespect for your parents. In Singapore, living at home until marriage is a common practice; An estimated 97% of unmarried individuals between the ages of 15 and 34 lived with their parents in 2013.

While this trend is partly driven by established notions of filial piety, it is also linked to government policies regarding youth accommodation. Most Singaporeans – more than 80% as of 2022 – live in public housing units, state-subsidized apartments known as HDBs (after the Housing Development Board). About 90% of those who live in HDBs own their own home. But most importantly, only married couples – Singapore does not recognize same-sex marriage – and singles over the age of 35 can purchase these public housing units.

Those who can’t afford HDBs can rent (or actually buy) via the private property market – but the costs are much higher. Calculations by research firm ValueChampion show that the average price per square foot for private housing units is more than three times that of an HDB unit. These cost constraints “lead most young singles to live at home with their parents,” says Dr Chua Bing Huat, professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

However, Alan, who is now renting an apartment in Hougang, a neighborhood in northeastern Singapore away from the Central Business District, with two friends from junior college, is among a growing number of Singaporean Millennials and General Z Singaporeans who have broken an old cultural norm . Some young people, for various reasons, decide that the price of independence is worth it – and spend it themselves.

“A literal space to grow into an adult”

In recent years, Singapore’s rental culture, previously restricted to expats, has taken root among the locals. Despite rising rental prices, the number of single Singaporean residents under the age of 35 living alone or away from their parents more than doubled from 2015 to 2020.

Many may consider moving. A 2021 survey by local property portal PropertyGuru showed that seven out of 10 respondents between the ages of 22 and 39 were considering moving out. “Once you cross a certain age, it can get uncomfortable [to live with your parents] “Because the freedom of what you can do at home is restricted,” Chua says. Besides the lack of privacy, it is a “difficult situation” for an adult.

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