Intergenerational ‘Battles’

intergenerationalI have tried to ignore the intergenerational battle theme – I’m not sure why? Perhaps it’s because I have young adult children. Firstly, I don’t want to feel like I am ripping them off, having just ‘launched’ them into the adult world, and two, I don’t want our relationship to be a battle. And they will inherit it all when I die.

But over recent weeks I have been prompted by researchers and commentators to pay more attention. Some of the things that have prompted me, include:

  1. In The Age today Annabel Crabb explores the divide between the generations concluding: We hear a  lot about class war. Religious war. Gender war. But how long can peace last between a generation that is making hay, and the children who will pick up the tab. You can read the piece here.
  2. Professor Michael North from New York University Stern School of Management recently visited Australia and shared his work on employment and ageing. His recent research concluded:

Overall, the findings emphasise resource tensions in driving older workers’ subtle exclusion by younger generations; minimising such tensions will be critical for ageing, increasingly intergenerational workplaces.

North is posing the flip side, that youth exclude older people from the workforce.You can read more about his work here.

Polarisations like this one make me feel uncomfortable.  Polarisations often lead to shouting not listening.

The British Society of Gerontology suggests we need to focus more on social citizenship. We need to have civil conversations rather than pitting one generation against another:

We need to ask a different question.  What purpose is being served by dishing up the rhetoric of intergenerational conflict day after day?  By introducing social policies that deliberately set young against old, by formally creating age divisions, brutally penalising young people in housing and welfare, and then telling them it’s all the fault of the old?  The answer is that social citizenship is being eroded in the 21st Century for people of all ages, inequalities are widening, and it is all happening behind the smokescreen of intergenerational conflict.  Masterfully done.

I’d be interested to hear your views on intergenerational conversations and relationships.

Till next time


One thought on “Intergenerational ‘Battles’

  1. Hal Kendig

    Hi Ralph,

    Congratulations on picking up on the sensible BGS piece on intergenerational equity. If you wish to see the evidence for Australia – quite different from the UK or Europe – you might have a quick look at the last chapter in our new book just published (attached, esp p263). I’ve also attached the PR flyer if you could help to publicise it (this book is more user friendly for pg students and practitioners than the ANU Press book published at the end of last year).

    You’ll see our evidence that the generational (actually cohort) inequalities are real especially insofar as the housing and work disadvantages experienced by young adults and real risks for the future. But you’ll also see my argument that the IGRs are unfairly blaming all older people (in Government’s quest for fiscal control) when the real explanations are the accumulating inequalities between advantaged and disadvantaged people over the entire life span with the tax system accentuating them. Further, the Australian situation is very different from Europe given our demographic and policy outlook. You’ll see my argument for a life span approach (p 271).

    I’ll let you know when our article on attitudes to intergenerational equity is published mid-year, providing strong evidence for deep intergenerational solidarity in Australia.




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