29 Dec 2011

Is the younger generation getting a raw deal?

With austerity looming, pension strikes back on the agenda and youth unemployment on the rise, is intergenerational conflict inevitable? Channel 4 News hears from both sides.

Is the younger generation getting a raw deal? (Getty)

First, a radical manifesto for 2012 from the Intergenerational Foundation on behalf of younger and future generations.

Younger and future generations depend on us to protect their interests be they environmental, economic, financial, or educational.

For too long, the interests of older generations have taken precedence over those of young people and those not yet born.

We owe it to younger and future generations to ensure that long termism and sustainability are at the core of civil society. We must protect their rights to enjoy a similar standard of living to their parents.

The Intergenerational Foundation (IF) calls for government to take action now, not to push responsibilities into the future.

For too long, the interests of older generations have taken precedence over those of young people and those not yet born.

Tell the truth over pensions

Many young people face having to work until they are 70 for a pension that will be half as generous as their parents. This is in addition to paying the unfunded pensions of soon to retire public sector workers. IF is calling for a windfall tax on wealthy, retired public sector workers to ensure a fair and equitable contribution to the additional cost that their rising longevity is imposing on society.

Re-balance housing wealth

The massive rise in house prices over previous decades is a key reason behind rising intergenerational unfairness. Many young people cannot afford to buy even a small flat while IF research has shown that over-consumption of housing by the over 60s has risen rapidly.

Council tax should be reformed to reflect each property’s true value and to make it more expensive to occupy a large house when it is no longer needed.

Tax incentives on buy-to-let properties should be reduced. It is unfair, for example, that landlords do not pay National Insurance on their unearned income, and can fully offset any loan against tax.

Invest in our young people’s education

The UK needs highly educated, motivated and skilled young people. To achieve this we need to invest in them, not consign them to a lifetime of debt. Student fees should be very sharply reduced or a retrospective graduate tax introduced, to re-balance the free university education received by older generations.

Manifesto to help younger and future generations from the Intergenerational Foundation (Getty)

Give young people a future of employment

Legal and organisational factors are contributing to an unequal playing field in employment. Is it fair that National Insurance does not apply to people over 65 years of age? NI should be charged on earned income, regardless of age.

Protect the environment

Government should not treat the needs of current generations as more important than those of future generations, as Lord Stern argues. This means paying for the investment in new green technology and infrastructure now, not pushing these costs into the future.

Fairer taxation across the generations

The government should consider reducing or scrapping universal benefits. These benefits are not means-tested meaning winter fuel allowance, free prescriptions and free bus passes are available to those who can afford to do without them instead of being given to those who need them most. Pensioners on low incomes already have access to various tax credits that could incorporate these benefits and reduce the cost to the taxpayer of well over £6 billion each year.

Tell the truth on government debt

All government borrowing should be on balance sheet so the burden being passed to the next generation is more transparent. This includes the current obligation for the state pension that IF estimates at £2 trillion.

Legislate for intergenerational legal protection

The legal definition of ageism should more explicitly include discrimination against younger generations, not just older generations.

Read more: Saga's Ros Altmann hits back on behalf of the older generation