The following post is republished from Donald Low’s Facebook.
Britain’s baby boomers (people born in the 1950s and 1960s), who form the country’s largest demographic, have truly screwed its young people now.
I suspect this is what happens when older people lack income security and adequate social protection. Baby boomers, unlike the generation of older people before them, are less likely to feel that they owe anything to the next generation, and are less willing to make sacrifices for the young. Is it any wonder then that the two western countries where populism in the form of anti-immigrant and anti-foreign sentiment has seen the most troubling resurgence in the past year – the US and Britain – are also the two with the least adequate pension and social security systems? When people feel insecure, they tend to find scapegoats.
While the Nordic countries and Germany have their fair share of skinheads and far-right parties, I suspect their ruling establishments are much better at holding the line against right-wing populism because they emphasise intergenerational equity and solidarity in their social security systems. So there’s less reason to lash out against ruling elites (and against foreigners).
Now, if you look at Singapore’s provisions for its baby boom generation – i.e. the people who are starting to retire now, the people who were of working age when Singapore grew most rapidly in the 1970-1990s, and the people who contributed the most to the country’s accumulation of reserves – would you not say that these are hardly adequate, especially relative to the contributions this generation made to our current prosperity?
And yet in the national discourse, they are often referred to as a fiscal burden, a drag on economic growth, even a demographic time bomb. The real time bomb is the political fallout from our failure to do right by the baby boom generation – and this means, among many things, urgent reforms to the CPF system.
(And please don’t say there’s the pioneer generation package. The baby boom generation does not qualify for that.)
Donald Low is a former Administrative Officer and is an Associate Dean at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
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