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Have older generations overplayed their hands?

Liz Emerson (Intergenerational Foundation, London, UK)
Angus Hanton (Intergenerational Foundation, London, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 9 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to expand upon the Intergenerational Foundation (IF) presentation given at the “Portraying of Ageing” conference, which was organised by the British Library and held in London in April 2014.


Changing demographics, wealth distribution, government debt and voting patterns are examined in order to question whether current government policy should continue to protect older generations at the expense of younger and future generations.


IF provides statistically robust evidence that, in spite of increasing wealth, older generations continue to be protected by government policy while younger generations are targeted for cuts from liabilities built up, but not paid for, by previous generations.

Social implications

Government policy may have tipped too far in favour of older wealthier cohorts, many of whom receive automatic benefits based on reaching a certain age. Governments should consider replacing age as a proxy for need with means-testing in order to rebalance benefits more fairly across the generations.


There have been limited research studies comparing the incidence of wealth amongst older generations and the scale of liabilities being passed on to younger and future generations. This paper will be of value to policy-makers interested in rebalancing the interests of all generations more equitably.



Emerson, L. and Hanton, A. (2015), "Have older generations overplayed their hands?", Working with Older People, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 21-24.



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