Economic uncertainty and cohabitation strategies in Italy
Annett Fleischer, Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit
Christin Schroeder, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
A particular aspect of demographic behavior among young people in Italy is postponement of entering first union. High youth unemployment, a tense housing situation, and a passive welfare state are currently creating a precarious economic situation, in which most young adults are unable to choose cohabitation. Thus, not surprisingly, previous studies found evidence that in Italy cohabitation was only a choice for people who were economically independent. Also of interest is that the percentage of informal unions varies to a considerable extent across Italy, showing higher proportions of cohabitation in the more prosperous regions of the North, unlike the South, where informal unions are much less prevalent and the economic system is affected by mismanagement, unemployment, and the informal economy. This suggests an interrelationship between the diffusion of cohabitation and the regional economic situation. In this qualitative study we are particularly interested in the question of how job insecurity affects cohabitation – or more precisely: How are job insecurity and resulting economic shortages related to the hesitant spread of cohabitation in Italy? For our analysis we investigated two different regional settings: Bologna in the North and Cagliari (Sardinia) in the South. Our findings show that, when compared to their counterparts in Cagliari, couples in Bologna benefited from higher opportunities to access at least temporary job contracts. Benefiting also from the availability of parental support during cohabitation, the Bologna couples faced fewer obstacles when deciding on an informal union. In Cagliari, couples were strongly affected by unstable employment conditions; further, the lack of parental approval of cohabitation often led to decreasing economic support, thereby making cohabitation an expensive choice.