Young people's prospects have 'nose-dived' says report
- 26 June 2012
- From the section Education & Family
Younger people in the UK are losing out financially and politically to older generations, a report claims.
The Intergenerational Fairness Index suggests the prospects of younger people have "nose-dived" since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.
The index uses official statistics to compare different generations' stakes in key areas from income and employment to housing, pensions and education.
Co-author Angus Hanton said the plight of younger generations was clear.
"The index shows that poorer young people are financing richer old people as our society grapples with demographic change and increasing longevity."
The authors, from the Intergenerational Foundation, co-founded by Mr Hanton, focus on nine indicators they believe most affect young people's lives and outlook - unemployment, income, housing, pensions, health, education, government debt, the environment and participation in democracy.
Their stated aim is to show "the degree to which younger people in our society are at an advantage or disadvantage" and how much "future generations will be impacted by the ways in which we live our lives today."
They used official data from 1990 to 2011, excluded the effects of inflation and population growth and compared how much different generations put in and what they will get out.
They used the figures to create an aggregate of how the balance between the generations has changed over the past 20 years.
They say the situation worsened by 28 points between 2000 and 2011 with a particularly rapid deterioration since 2008.
Some measures showed an improvement. For example in 2010 a greater percentage of national income was spent on education than at any time since the mid 1970s - but the authors say the prospects for young people overall are poor.
The report states: "Whilst government borrowing and pension debt have increased steadily, there has also been an increased shift in favour of the older generation through higher charges for education, rising youth unemployment and high housing costs.
"This index highlights... the increasing problem of poorer young people financing richer older people."
The authors say recent government changes for example to the financing of higher education in England as likely to shift the balance further away from younger people.
Angus Hanton said: "They now face an average £42,000 of debt from university, the prospect of long-term unemployment, record rent demands and now the abolition of housing benefit."
He called for benefits to be cut fairly across the generations: "Let's talk about those benefits that go to everyone over 60 years of age, irrespective of wealth - winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and free prescriptions."
Paul Johnson director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said: "The broad statement that young people have had it worse during the recession is true in all sorts of measures. Unemployment rates for the under-25s have risen steeply while this is not the case for the over-30s.
"The over-40s have been able to continue spending as before but the spending power of the under-30s has gone through the floor as their incomes have fallen and they try to save to buy houses.
"Poverty among the under-25s continues to rise with the poorest now no better off than their counterparts 40 years ago... the worst-affected have been those with low levels of education from poor backgrounds who are not going to be supported by the older generation."
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students said: "The issues affecting young people today already affect many poorer older people too.
"Pushing parents into poverty disproportionately impacts on the young people they care for and denying older generations access to education cuts the aspirational link that springboards their children to continue studying.
"Any intergenerational rebalancing needs to be underpinned by understanding rather than obscuring the huge and growing socio-economic inequalities in our society.
"We should be looking to find common cause across the generations, not advocating a race to the bottom where the poor, whether young or old, continue to lose out."
A government spokeswoman said: "We want every young person to have an excellent start in life. Education is the surest route out of poverty and our reforms mean that many more children will receive the world-class teaching they deserve.
"Tackling youth unemployment remains one of our key priorities. We have launched a £1bn youth contract which includes a wage incentive for employers to hire young people and an extra 250,000 work experience placements over the next three years.
"We are also helping young people improve their skills through pre-employment training by expanding the Apprenticeships programme."