Unlike previous generations, European Millennials don’t feel the pressure to complete life milestones in a certain order, and this is reflected in the way they have approached parenthood, too. This gen is happy to delay parenting until they feel ready for it, and have the financial capacity to do so. But data from YPulse’s WE Millennial Parenting report shows that 53% of Millennials in the region are now parents, and our research also shows that (just like their peers in NA) they’re changing what this lifestage looks like in many ways.
So what makes European Millennial parents different? The following three charts tell you more about Millennial parenting, including the number of children they have, who looks after their children during the week, and how many are single parents:
The majority of Millennial parents in Western Europe only have one child
The majority of Millennial parents have only 1 child (54%), a +20pts difference gap between the number of Millennials parents who have 2 children (34%). Having more than two children is becoming increasingly rare among young Europeans, and while this wasn’t the case for previous generations, only one in ten Millennial parents currently have more than two children. For many, having only one child is the new norm, and fueling the trend of the “one and done” parent. Countries in the region are all experiencing a drop in childbirth: in France, 2022 was the lowest childbirth year on record since the country started to record birth rates after WW2.
One of the reasons why Millennials have fewer kids compared to previous gens is because this generation is in no rush to tackle this milestone. In our recent What’s The Situationship Trend Report, YPulse informed you that young Europeans are very clear about the freedom they have to diverge from traditional milestones, and 80% agree with the statement “I don’t care in what order life milestones were done in generations past. I will do it my own way.” Without the social pressure to have kids straight away, Millennials are quite happy to delay the process till later in life, and become a parent when they’re personally ready, not when they’re expected to. Of course, cost is also a factor that many Millennials take into consideration before having children, and we know from our WE Millennial Parenting Report that three in five Millennial parents agree with the statement “I underestimated how much it costs to raise children,” underscoring that for many, raising children is a financial burden. Speaking of costs related to raising children, how do Millennial parents in Western Europe plan the care of their children during weekdays in order to work?
European Millennial parents rely on institutional support to raise their children
In many countries in Western Europe, early years’ education is heavily subsidized by governments, and in some places is even free. In Germany for example, Millennial parents spend on average less than 5% of their income on childcare costs. Due to the culture of low childcare costs in the region, many parents decide to send their kids to a daycare center. Staying at home to take care of the children is not the norm, and only a quarter of Millennial parents do so (26%). The situation looks very different from Millennial parents in North America: almost two in five (37%) stay at home with their children during the week, +11pts compared to Western Europe. The exception on the continent is the U.K., where childcare is among the most expensive of all the OECD countries. But the government has just recently announced a wave of reforms to make childcare more affordable, and help struggling parents meet the cost of childcare, and incentivize them to go back to work.
The institutional support for childcare that governments are offering to Millennial parents is also a great way to boost the economy, by helping parents to go back to work, and spend money in the childcare sector. But things can be difficult for Millennial parents, many of whom have been affected by the cost-of-living crisis. As a result, some brands have doubled their efforts to help this specific demographic. Take the example of the way mass merch retailer Primark in the U.K. promised to freeze the price of its children’s clothing collections last summer to help parents save. Data from WE Millennial Parenting Report also shows that saving money for their child(ren) is Millennial parents’ second biggest financial priority at this point in their life, after taking care of their family. To make sure they have enough money, Millennial parents are also more likely than non-parents to do more than one job, and data from YPulse’s Finance / Spending Monitor Report shows that 35% of Millennial parents have multiple sources of income, +14pts more than non-parents. Financial hardship is real for Millennial parents, and this is especially true for single parents:
Single parenting is not the same across Western Europe
On average, 18% of European Millennial parents with kids are single parents, but this figure hides great differences between countries in the region. Italy is the country with the lowest number of single Millennial parents: only one parent in ten is raising kids on their own in the country. With 30% single Millennial parents, the U.K. is the Western European country with the most Millennial parents raising their children on their own, much more like the situation in North America where 35% of Millennial parents are single.
In times of inflation and cost-of-living crisis, it has been highlighted that single parents were particularly vulnerable. A recent study in the U.K. by the Office for National Statistics shows that single parents have savings 20 times smaller than the average family. Financial hardship caused by single parenting is also fuelling gender discrimination: a study by Gingerbread, a U.K.-based charity working with single-parent families, found that a whopping 90% of British single parents are women, they are also at risk of suffering from gender discrimination. Brands can step up to offer support to this demographic, and be inspired by M&S’s Kids Eats Free recent campaign offering free meals to kids whose parents spend in-store.