Monday, 15 June 2009

What price pensions for your old age?

The demographic timebomb and its impact on our ageing society was under discussion at a Fabian conference this morning.
A packed room tuned in to hear Vince Cable, economic whizz and everyone's favourite LibDem, turn his attention to pensions, and the potential conflict between the needs of the young and the needs of the older generation.
With increasing numbers of us living longer and expecting a good quality of life, the pressures are on the state to help at both ends of the timeline, he told the Fabian/Housing 21/Counsel and Care Ageing Society Policy Confererence.
As Cable suggests, in a recession those most hard hit may be the teenagers who cannot get into the job market and are stuck with ever increasing debt.
Discussion among the major political parties about protecting the health service last week, suggested a value judgement putting the needs of the elderly - the biggest users of health care -- above the young, he suggested. This didn't feel like the most populist thing to say when the demographics of the audience was definitely swinging towards the former.
But Vince plugged on - obviously unworried about a popularity poll - to talk about another timebomb - public sector pensions, a subject he dubbed "the biggest debate of next year".
Pensions don't feel like the most popular of subjects generally right now; what with M&S deciding to pull the plug on its scheme last week, and columnists (and others) suggesting public sector pensions are/should be due for the chop.
The problem is private sector schemes feel unreliable and often have costly fees, particularly for small savers, and with public sector pensions looking to have a gloomy future, the motivation to put money away at all seems to be draining away.
As those baby boomers head for a shifting retirement package, not enough is being done to build confidence in any alternative savings plan which feels like a safe or productive place to help people plan for their old age.


framingthedot said...

I would like to have been there to hear the debate myself. So I don't know what caveats Cable made,but it's dangerous talk to suggest that different age groups don't together share a political interest in the maintating of high standards of care in the NHS. Older voters are typically highly supportive of investment in schools, likewise younger voters support health care spending. To drive a bogus wedge between generations, in my view, would be very bad for progressive politics. The left needs to develop an understanding of inter-generatational solidarity to combat the calls to sweep away the social model under the pretext of the myth of the ageing "time bomb".

Rachael Jolley said...

Framing the Dots, I don't think it so much a bogus wedge as intelligent comment to point out that there is a limited pot of money and it should be shared among generations. There were comments made about the understanding of eldery voters of the needs of the young. Vince pointed out that in last week's debate about public sector finance, there was less said about protecting education than health.

framingthedot said...

Hi, I would argue the very idea that health is for "the old" and not of interest to the "young" is a constructed rhetorical device - a false choice if you like. I may not need the health service at the moment, but I won't spend my whole life in good health and so investing in the NHS is investing in my own future. As I said progressives need to develop a language of solidarity and not one of conflict between generations - particuarly as voters don't perceive a conflict to exist.