Why we need intergenerational politics


pupils in class using digital...

Anyone who disputes Labour cost of living concerns only need to read the latest report from the government's social mobility tsar.

Alan Milburn's report is pretty shocking reading and the crux of it is that for the first time in a century, today's children are unlikely to grow up better off then their parents.

Our standards of living have risen over the past 100 years, and each generation has benefitted from better educations, better jobs, more stability in income and a better lifestyle than the generation before them. But the government's austerity measures are putting an end to that improvement.

Young people nowadays have little to look forward to; racking up eye-watering debts at university, a slim chance of getting on the housing ladder without crippling themselves financially, and if that wasn't enough the jobs that they educated themselves to get is likely to be unstable.

Throw on top of that, an inability to afford pension contributions, and the choice to have a family become an added extra rather than a right, and you've got yourself a pretty gloomy outlook.

It's a depressing state of affairs and despite the Help to Buy scheme which aims to help young people with a small deposit on to the property ladder, it flags up the inequality between generations – inequality that will persist as our ageing population increases.

If you think it's bad now, can you imagine what it will look like when the number of pensioners is rising faster than the number of working age people. Since1999 the number of over 65s has risen 29.4% compared to just 26% for working age people, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The cost of state pensions, care homes and added strain on the NHS is all going to add up. What's the solution? I don't have a magic wand or a crystal ball but taxing younger people more does not seem like a sensible solution – they're already worse off than their parents – so it looks like cuts will have to happen at the other end.

The state pension age will have to rise exponentially and benefits will have to be cut to avoid putting more pressure on younger generations who won't even be able to rely on inheritance windfalls as old age eats up assets to pay for long-term care.

The government needs to take an intergenerational approach to the country's finances if we're going to ensure younger people a quality of life equal to their parents.