Intergenerational solidarity

Our discussions in The Hague continued this morning on how we economic and social committees and councils, particularly as consultative bodies, might help engage younger generations in the socio-political and economic processes of our societies. There is a sense – polling evidence, including Eurobarometer, strongly confirms this – of a growing gap in the perceptions of younger and older Europeans about what is best for society. Younger people sense that as demography increasingly tilts our societies towards the old, so their needs and views will be neglected or undervalued. The primary risk is clear: the dwindling relevance to the young of traditional intermediate structures, where younger Europeans will increasingly be outnumbered. At the same time those same younger Europeans will increasingly be relied upon to finance the pensions and services of the older majority. Worse, they will continue to be among the most vulnerable to the consequences of the current crisis. This issue of intergenerational solidarity will become increasingly pressing, hence our discussions about the contributions we might make to ensure that the young feel involved, relevant, and heard and that they continue to engage in the socio-political and economic structures and processes that are the stuff of governance, both at member state and European level. For the EU, as one participant pointedly observed, the consequences are already being felt; his children feel less European than he does.

2 Comments

  1. Whilst I do not have a problem with the concept of intergenerational solidarity (or intergenerational fairness as they call it in the UK) in principle, I do have a big problem with the direction this concept is heading.

    On the one side you have AGE Platform Europe representing the interests of older people, arguing that older people should continue to benefit from all the state subsidised services for free that they have benefited from up until now. AGE continue to arguing for higher and better protected pensions, more benefits for older workers etc.

    Meanwhile at the other end of the scale, young people are experiencing the highest unemployment rate for a generation, have to pay for university education, have little or no hope of buying a property, will find it hard to progress in their job because of older people staying on in the workplace etc….and then on top of this they are expected to pay a large tax bill for pensions they will never benefit from.

    I think it’s time for some solidarity in the other direction!

  2. Martin

    16/11/2011 at 9:53

    Spot on. What I also find fascinating is the whole philosophical nexus around the question of intergenerational solidarity. In particular, are our democratic systems designed to cope with the concept of the interests of future generations? An idea for a (sci fi) treatment of the theme has come to me but I suppose I’ll have to wait until this job is out of the way before I can write it up properly.

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