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Intergenerational Fairness Report: Sense of unfairness shared across generations

Ensuring intergenerational fairness is one of the biggest challenges facing policy-makers today. Citizens are increasingly worried that their children may end up worse off than their parents, challenging a key premise that has long underpinned societies: that each successive generation would become better off than the previous.

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"Europeans across all age groups doubt their governments are considering the financial impact of policy decisions on future generations."

A survey we carried out in mid-2017 entitled Intergenerational fairness: A survey of citizens in 10 European countries gave us a snapshot of the views of 10,000 Europeans from 10 countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK) on intergenerational fairness and the different aspects that make up that debate. Here are the key themes that emerged.

Sense of unfairness broadly shared across genders and age groups

The survey showed that Swiss and Swedish citizens have a more positive outlook on intergenerational fairness. However, the majority in all other countries do not think their generation is given fair treatment. It’s a sentiment that’s particularly strong in Greece and Bulgaria, and it’s shared by 42% of those surveyed in the UK.

Autumn Budget: spending spree doesn't disguise £2tn challenge ahead for the UK economy.

The Autumn Budget has brought home the fiscal and economic challenges facing the UK

Lack of a long-term view

In addition to this sense of unfairness, Europeans across all age groups doubt their governments are considering the financial impact of policy decisions on future generations. The survey revealed that over half indicate a lack of trust in their government. This sentiment is particularly strong, in Greece, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. In the UK, 40% are distrustful.

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"80% of those surveyed believe that their government should be primarily responsible for alleviating poverty, reducing unemployment and supporting pensions and social care."

Poverty and unemployment is the highest priority for all

The survey asked citizens to rank six policy areas, all chosen for their strong direct or indirect effect on all generations: environmental stability, government debt, education and infrastructure, pensions and social care, poverty and unemployment, and tax.

Poverty and unemployment was revealed as the top priority across the board, with 54% identifying it as a high priority issue. Securing pensions and social care came a close second, with 47% highlighting it as a top priority. Reducing government debt was at the bottom of the list for almost all respondents.

And while there is broad consensus on policy priorities, there are nuances across the countries surveyed. For example, those in Poland worry more about the fairness of their tax system, whereas citizens in Bulgaria, Sweden, the UK and Germany place more emphasis on investing in education and infrastructure.

Government should take lead responsibility, say citizens

Around 80% of those surveyed believe that their government should be primarily responsible for alleviating poverty, reducing unemployment and supporting pensions and social care, and 64% share the same views when it comes to education.

These views were widely shared across all age groups and genders, which showed that these issues are more pressing than ever – and that they need addressing in order to re-balance the scales when it comes to intergenerational fairness.

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