A third of Taiwan's adults still live with mum and dad

People walk past Taiwan's landmark building Taipei 101 in Taipei. A third of Taiwan's adults still live with their parents according to the latest statistics from Taiwan's Ministry of Interior.
People walk past Taiwan's landmark building Taipei 101 in Taipei. A third of Taiwan's adults still live with their parents according to the latest statistics from Taiwan's Ministry of Interior. PHOTO: REUTERS

Some like the familiarity, having parents look after their children, while others cite high rents and lower wages

After living in London for two years with strangers and their quirks, marketer Amber Wang is happy to be back home sharing the same roof with her parents.

Certainly they nag her occasionally when she comes home late and she is not able to host her friends at home, but the 26-year-old is fine with that.

"It's so much more comfortable living with my parents as we know each other's habits and that sense of familiarity draws us closer," says Ms Wang.

Ms Wang moved into her parents' three-room apartment in the Shilin district at the beginning of this year after returning to Taiwan to work in a cosmetics company.

And she's not alone. The proportion of Taiwanese over the age of 20 living with their parents is 33.5 per cent (6.33 million), according to the latest statistics from Taiwan's Ministry of Interior. About a million of those between 35 and 54 are even married.

By comparison, 37 per cent of young couples in Singapore in 2013 lived with or near their parents, a Housing Board survey found. At the same time, the proportion of nuclear families, which generally refers to two-generation households, fell to 49 per cent.

This is the first time that the Taiwanese government is publishing such figures as a reference for local governments to better meet their constituents' housing demands.

For instance, Taipei is looking to build cheap public housing, or social housing, to stop young professionals and their families from leaving the city. It is offering 50,000 social housing units by 2021 with rents that are lower than the average market rental rate.

Many of the young adults who spoke to The Straits Times blame high property prices for not leaving the roost, even though the government has reined in soaring home prices. In fact, Taiwan's property prices fell by about 9.4 per cent in the 12 months to June.

But the stagnant Taiwan economy has dimmed job prospects and shrunk pay cheques - monthly wages have inched up only about 3 per cent since 2005, while housing prices have tripled.

Graphic designer Liu Hao-lan, 28, who earns about NT$35,000 a month (S$1,500), says he cannot afford to shell out a third of his pay cheque to rent a shoebox studio apartment.

"What's the point of wasting the money for a little more freedom if I live alone. I'd rather build up more savings for a future property," said Mr Liu, who intends to live with his parents and two sisters till he is 35.

"In any case, we all get along very well and check in with each other often to ensure everything is okay. That bond is good," he adds.

Indeed, the Taiwanese still seem to be a happy lot. They recently emerged tops in an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development index that measures people's well-being.

Its indicators include housing expenditure, household financial wealth, job security, quality of life and life expectancy.

For many couples who have to juggle work and their children, living with their parents also gives them peace of mind.

Architect Shen I-kai, 39, who got married five years ago and is now a father of two, says: "We can trust my mum to take good care of my kids while my wife and I are out working. It saves us the money, hassle and worry of having a baby-sitter."

But there are those like Ms C. Liu, 28, who hopes to wean herself off her parents when she looks to get married in two to three years' time.

"My parents will not be there for me in the long run," she says. "I still need to bring up my own kids and lead a life of my own."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'A third of Taiwan's adults still live with mum and dad'. Print Edition | Subscribe