Should we take from the old to give to the young?
Young people today are getting a raw deal compared with their parents’ generation, according to the experts.
Millennials earn less than previous generations did at the same age, have been saddled with huge student debts, and spend vastly more on renting lower quality housing.
Meanwhile, older people have been increasingly well looked after by the Government – indeed, the income of the average pensioner is now higher than that of the average working family.
Even regarding the luxuries most associated with Millennial spending, it is actually among their elders that the expansion has been greatest.
For all the column inches advising young people to eat fewer shop-bought sandwiches or avocado on toast to afford a deposit on a house, it is older working age adults – not Millennials – whose behaviour has shifted substantially towards eating out more.
This is a problem for the Conservative Government, particularly given both turnout and support for the Labour Party rose by double digits among the youngest generation in June’s general election.
Thus Philip Hammond has been tasked with producing a ‘Budget for intergenerational fairness’ this week, with tax giveaways to the young and cuts to tax relief for pensioners among the policies mooted.
So, should he take from the old to give to the young?
New Sky Data polling suggests that – not for the first time – the British public do not share the view of the experts.
Four in 10 – 42% – do think that young people are getting less than their fair share from the Government, with 29% saying they get the right amount and 12% saying they get more than their share.
But older people don’t think the young are doing too badly: only 29% of those aged 55 and over think young people get less than their fair share.
Across the population, older people are actually seen as getting a worse deal from the Government than the young.
A majority – 54% – think they get less than their fair share, with 23% saying they get the right amount and 16% saying they get more than their share.
And it’s actually the young who are the biggest advocates for their elders – 60% of 18-34s say older people get less than their fair share from the Government.
While the Chancellor has been under pressure to take from the old to give to the young, these results suggest that could be counterproductive – even among young voters.
In a hypothetical trade-off between young and older people, Britons would rather take from the young to give to the old than the other way around.
Eighteen percent would take from the young to give to the older, 13% would take from the old to give to the young, 29% would keep things as they are, while 30% answer ‘none of these’.
And the underlying reasons are clear when you break it down by age. Older people are happy with the status quo – by far the largest proportion of those aged 55 and over think things should stay as they are (48%).
Younger people, on the other hand, simply reject the assumption that you have to take from one to give to the other – perhaps unsurprisingly, given that they tend to be more left wing than their elders.
By far the largest proportion of those aged 18-34 answer ‘none of these’ (49%), with only 13% favouring the status quo.
Taking from the old to give to the young may increase intergenerational fairness on paper – depending, of course, on the details.
But it could be the worst of all worlds for the Government. Older people have little sympathy for the plight of Millennials, in contrast to the concern of the young for their elders.
If there is to be spending on the young, it appears the young themselves want it to come from borrowing – or the Prime Minister’s “Magic Money Tree” – but not from the pockets of their parents and grandparents.
By | Harry Carr.