IN NORTHERN Spain, a judge has turned down the demand of a 23-year-old woman to continue receiving her parents’ financial support, ruling that she is “too lazy to earn a living”.
Family bonds are traditionally highly valued in Spain and this decision marks a contrast with many previous rulings in which parents have been obliged to support their offspring long after they become adults, and even into their 30s.
Spain’s crippling economic crisis has caused youth unemployment to soar, meaning most young people rely on their parents for many years after leaving school.
The average age at which Spaniards leave home has risen to 29, almost nine years later than the average Swede, according to Eurostat.
The unnamed 23 year old, from the seaside town of Castro Urdiales, went to the Cantabrian provincial court to demand maintenance of €300 a month from her father.
The woman’s parents had separated in 2012 and there had been no mention of child support in their settlement.
The court noted that the woman had not completed secondary education but she had received money from her parents to pay for IT courses that she had not managed to complete.
Legal precedent in Spain holds that parents are obliged to provide for their children until they reach economic independence. But the judges ruled that this responsibility does not apply if the child’s behaviour prevents them from getting on in life.
In this instance, the woman’s conduct was “legally classifiable as one of abandonment, laziness and failure to take advantage”.
In a similar vein, a court in Catalonia last year told a 19 year old, who was neither in work nor studying, that his parents were not obliged to support his “capricious lifestyle”, effectively booting him on to the street.
The president of the Spanish family law association, Maria Dolores Lozano, says parents are increasingly seeking legal help.
Judges are also drawing attention to the large numbers of young Spaniards who have moved abroad to find work, when they consider whether or not a child has options to support themselves, she adds.
The reality in Spain is that these cases are by no means the whole of the story.
Clara is 33 years old, able-bodied and has a master’s degree.
And yet an appeal court in the north-western province of Galicia has ruled her father must continue to pay her an allowance of €450 a month while she seeks a job in keeping with her education.
“The really unprecedented thing about this case is that the support is open-ended,” says Rosario Bello, Clara’s legal representative.
So it could become a kind of pension for life.
“There is no set rule on how long parents must support their children, but the late 20s used to mark the limit, allowing a person to get support while they studied for a degree and maybe a master’s degree before entering the labour market,” Ms Bello explains. “It is the crisis that has led to this change.”
Despite Spain’s economic recovery over the past two years, unemployment among under-30s remains stubbornly high at 43%.
The figure is so high partly because many young Spaniards continue studying throughout much of their 20s.
But the shocking reality is that fewer than 40% of young people are gainfully employed, according to a study published in April by La Caixa bank’s social welfare foundation.
In the report, entitled “Low education level, low labour participation”, author Begoña Cueto of Oviedo University explains why a lack of skills and chronic unemployment are so inextricably linked.
Of the one in three 25- to 34-year-olds who did not complete secondary education, many dropped out of school and took up unskilled work during Spain’s construction boom in the decade leading up to the 2008 financial crash.
“One of the key challenges facing our system is to reduce the school dropout rate, regardless of the economic situation,” she argues.
Because after drifting out of school, into work and then out of employment, many young Spaniards are stuck at home, straining their country’s long and proud tradition of family solidarity.