My old man would always make jokes about how they would not be under any obligations to take care of me beyond the age of 21. He was right. It was only out of parental courtesy that I was still able to occupy some space in my parents’ house a decade after my 21st birthday.
But it wasn’t until my younger siblings began to fight over who was going to occupy my room that it finally dawned on me that I had overstayed my welcome. While I had spent a considerable length of time unemployed and unable to afford bills let alone pay rent, finding the job was not necessarily an immediate motivation to spread my wings and spring out of the nest. I thought I could use the extra cash for my extravagant gallivanting purposes. Staying with the parents beyond what one would consider a reasonable age is a story way too common here in Botswana.
It turns out, according to recent media reports, they have a similar problem in the US where a 30 year old Michael Rotondo was last week ordered by a judge to vacate his parents’ house.
The judge’s decision came after Mark and Christina Rotondo sent their son several letters asking him to move out, get a job and take his broken-down Volkswagen with him. In a letter dated February 18, they offered him $1,100 in cash to help him find a place to stay, USA Today reports.
“Staying at home gives me an opportunity to save up so I can purchase the house I have always wanted,” says 35 year old Joseph Tumagole who stays with his parents in Mogoditshane. “While staying with your folks has its own limitations I believe the advantages far exceed the disadvantages,” Tumagole says.
Thabo Baeti, also living under his parents’ roof, says his current job is not paying him enough to go out and stay on his own.
In most cases (for those who work in the capital city) it is the people whose parents live in or around Gaborone who find it difficult to cut off the umbilical cord. With the rampant unemployment coupled with constantly increasing rent and property prices, staying with the folks tends to make more economical sense for most millennials.
A United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Botswana Demographic Dividend Report released earlier this year indicates how young Batswana remain dependent up to the age of 32. The report states that over the last few decades, Botswana’s age-structure has transformed from one with more child dependents to one with significantly more people in the working-ages.
“Two critical features of Botswana National Transfer Accounts (NTA) profile is that young people remain dependent till age 32 when they start producing more than they consume and that the country has a uniquely high level of consumption that has produced a huge lifecycle deficit (between consumption and labor income).” The deficit, UNFPA says, is financed by the government from the proceeds of the country’s finite mineral resources. “In short, Botswana is not living within its means, which is not sustainable in the long-term. Moving forward, the big question is what can Botswana do to position itself to maximize what is left of its first demographic dividend and use this opportunity to hasten the achievement of the Vision 2036 development aspirations?” One of the four policy areas where Botswana can improve the situation, the report says, is to prioritize economic reforms and investments to urgently accelerate creation of jobs and other well-paying livelihoods for the country’s youth, who continue to be dependent up to age 32.
The UNFPA says the first component of this priority entails focusing on diversifying the economy to expand sectors with high job multiplier effects, reforming the agricultural sector to be more attractive to youth, providing incentives to companies that consciously create livelihood opportunities for youth, and empowering youth with resources and technical capacities to start and grow businesses. “The second component,” the report states, “which is more immediate, entails enhancing the quality of and rebranding Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as an attractive route for re-skilling the thousands of out-of-school youth who did not make it to tertiary colleges.” It says this will enhance the employability of youth and their prospects to engage in well-paying and sustainable livelihoods, including owning businesses. The study shows that boosting Botswana’s job creation capacity for young people to follow the global median profile for other countries with NTA data would boost living standards of the population by about 20.5% between 2015 and 2035.
The UNFPA report also says Botswana’s long-term vision to achieve its socio-economic development goals, Vision 2036, envisions a modern high-income country where the benefits of socio-economic development are shared by all Batswana.
“Although significant gains have been realized towards achieving these goals over the last 20 years when Vision 2016 was in operation, the progress needs to be consolidated and efforts enhanced to achieve the new targets. Vision 2036 is operational at a critical point in Botswana’s demographic transition and socioeconomic development trajectory.”
It may be understandable staying with your parents because you do not have the necessary means to afford a life out on your own given the current unemployment circumstances, or for health reasons, or on a transitional period, but for those who have the means, or those who like US’ Michael Rotondo, have not displayed enough commitment to find that elusive job opportunity, may find themselves at the receiving end of an eviction court order as in the case of the 30 year old American.