Population Matters

UK inquiry into intergenerational fairness

UK inquiry into intergenerational fairness

The functioning of the welfare state relies on an intergenerational social contract

The welfare state has been transformed greatly since it was first proposed in the 1940s. Its task of ensuring an acceptable minimum standard of living in the UK below which nobody falls is challenging. That the lowest rate of poverty is currently to be found among pensioners can be considered a victory for the welfare state. That those born in the middle of the baby boom are forecast to receive 118 per cent of what they contribute from the welfare state, is similarly unique. At the same time, it is projected that future generations will not reap the same benefits.

The Work and Pensions Committee has taken both of these projections to heart and seeks to examine the fairness of the welfare state. Our submission argues that intergenerational fairness is a welfare issue because the functioning of the welfare state relies on an intergenerational social contract. At present, the ageing of the UK population and various government policies put a heavy financial strain on those of working age. This is neither fair nor sustainable.

There is a strong logic for promoting a sustainable population size

Our submission suggests that it is important to stabilise, and ultimately reverse, population growth to ensure a fair and sustainable welfare state. With the resource limitations of the UK and the feared unaffordability of the welfare state, there is a strong logic for promoting a sustainable population size. Moreover, the productivity of the UK’s current population should be increased. The empowerment of women, the elimination of involuntary unemployment and an attitude change regarding retirement age will drastically decrease the financial strain on the current workforce.

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