There has been some quite silly spinning in recent days about an 'intergenerational divide'. It reached its apogee on twitter (where else?) with this tweet:
For once the UK's economic differences are not so much between rich and poor...they are between old and young http://t.co/uKjcuVQprd
— Shiv Malik (@shivmalik1) June 14, 2013
The tweet links to an article by Paul Johnson - the director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies. What he says is somewhat different to what Malik tweeted. Johnson says of distrubutional changes in income since the recession, "the differences are not so much between rich and poor" - and points out that "pensioner incomes have continued to rise on average, albeit very modestly".
But when Johnson uses terms like 'rich' and 'poor' he is talking about quintiles (20%) or deciles (10%) at best. The real rich are the top 1% or even less - whose grotesque incomes and wealth continue to grow unhindered (for example FTSE director pay grew by 34% in 2010 and by 49% in 2011). The Sunday Times Rich List also shows that in the last year, the richest 1,000 Britons saw their wealth expand by £35 billion - that's more than all the welfare cuts announced, in total!
In the last five years, since the start of the recession, unemployment has increased by a staggering 49% for 18-24 year olds, but the same is also true for 35-49 year olds. More staggering is that the number of 50 to 64 year olds unemployed has risen by 82% in that same period. So actually the hardest hit by the recession (remember youth unemployment was high and rising before the recession) are older workers.
And pensioners are not having it easy - as DWP poverty figures released yesterday showed. The pensioner poverty rate is 18%, compared with 17% for working age adults (see Guardian article). The UK still lags behind the rest of Europe on what it spends (public and private) on pensions: with our spending just 5.4% of GDP, compared to 6.0% in the US, 8.8% in Japan, 10.7% in Germany and 12.5% in France.
The reality is that we need intergenerational solidarity to defeat the cuts that are hitting both young and old. Whether one section of society is being hit slightly harder is only of secondary importance to us all uniting to stop the bastards that are hitting us!