The elderly are driving the recovery. It's time for generational jihadists to say 'thanks'

The elderly are being scapegoated for the economic misfortunes of the young – when in fact they are driving the recovery

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

You can blame it on David Willetts. A while back, he published a book called The Pinch arguing that the older generation had swindled the young out of their rightful economic inheritance and should give it back. Baby boomers (those born soon after the war) had enjoyed free university tuition, affordable housing and a thriving economy. Yet the legacy they have left to the young was a crash, eye-watering tuition fees and a gargantuan national debt. The book drew a new dividing line between the young and the old. It was a manifesto for generational jihad.

It was, of course, a fascinating and original thesis which has attracted many followers. But it was also deeply misleading and perverse, and grossly unfair to boomers. Indeed, one might even coin the term ‘boomophobe’ (or possibly even ‘self-hating boomer’, since he is of a certain age himself, as indeed am I) to describe Mr Willetts and his acolytes. And we can already see the social divisions which this thesis has provoked.

Heaven knows, the boomers have enough on their collective conscience, having been responsible for inventing sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, not to mention the destruction of the nuclear family, patriotism and the education system. These crimes, however, are all strangely absent from the Willetts roll of shame. Instead, the older generation is accused of dumping intolerable economic burdens upon the young, who are said to be carrying the boomers on their financial backs. Doubtless inspired by this call to generational arms, young people have cast themselves as yet another victim group in the miserable army of the oppressed.

Others not normally associated with manning the social barricades have also come out as supporters of revolutionary Pinchism. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, to name but one, has accused the boomers of being a ‘fortunate generation’ with ‘severe questions’ to be answered about ‘inter-generational equity’. Instructive, isn’t it, that someone’s good fortune is to be considered intrinsically unjust and thus justifies a moral imperative to rob him of it. This inter-generational aggression, however, has simply got its facts the wrong way round. For far from older folk leeching off the young, the statistics — if you dig deep enough — show that the elderly are actually getting the country out of this mess.

Once upon a time, people stopped working when they got to retirement age. Now, older people are continuing to work and contributing to the economy. Since the crash, the going has been pretty tough. But the tough elderly have got going. When the jobs market peaked in April 2008, a record 690,000 over-65s were working. Now, it’s a million. Somehow, almost a third of a million more British pensioners — facing bombed-out annuities — have come running on to the labour market and found work. The last estimate shows them making a £40 billion contribution to the economy — but that was 2010, so the current figure will be far greater.

Yet since the crash, far fewer of the working-aged (i.e. between 16 and 65) are in jobs. When the Prime Minister boasts about record numbers in work (which he does, regularly) he has pensioners to thank. If it weren’t for them, there would be some 160,000 fewer people in work. This raises the question: just who is leeching off whom?

As for the canard that the elderly are somehow taking jobs away from the young, that’s not true either. A recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies concluded there was ‘no evidence of long-term crowding-out of younger individuals from the labour market by older workers’. Today, 20 per cent of British youth are unemployed — but the jobs market still absorbs some 600 immigrants a day and more oldies than ever. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that jobs are there, for those who want to take them. And in Britain, the recovery seems to be a joint venture between immigrants and pensioners.

Contrary to Keynesian orthodoxy, which argues that slumps are caused by lack of demand, the determining factor behind the UK recovery seems to be the supply of willing workers. It is harder than ever to regard the over-65s as a burden, given that a million of them are now taxpaying employees. Across all sectors, businesses report the benefits of employing older workers. McDonald’s, for example, reports a 20 per cent higher performance in outlets employing workers aged over 60 as well as younger workers.

Ah, say the boomophobes, but the older generation are sitting on small goldmines in the shape of the value of their houses, while we can’t get on to the housing ladder at all. Younger people have even been described in the press as the ‘jilted generation’ — children born since the turn of the century who will have to live with their parents for longer and will struggle to afford their own homes. Well yes, it’s true that house prices have been pushed sky-high, particularly in the south-east. But that’s a distortion caused by social change and the policies of successive governments — high immigration rates, family breakdown pushing up demand, and not enough homes being built to keep pace.

Even so, moan the Pinchists, these valuable houses owned by older people represent a windfall, which is very unfair because they didn’t earn it. They just aren’t entitled to be so asset-rich at all. The cry has therefore gone up: soak the hoarding OAPs! Just look at them, all so smug and well-off and complacent! They had free orange juice as children! They had grants to enable them to go to university! They had jobs and houses and cars! They are now living longer, they can swan off on exotic holidays whenever they feel like it, and they even seem fitter than us in the gym!

And it goes beyond a moan. There is a call for action against a generation who are blamed for the last government crashing the economy, saddling us with astronomical debts and mortgaging the entire future of the nation through PFI schemes. The Pinchists ask if there is a single politician who will now rise up against this rule by old people (there is even a word for it: gerontocracy), take a slice from their protected pensions and redistribute it to those who really deserve it — the indebted young! Strip the well-off wrinklies of their Freedom Passes! Confiscate their winter fuel allowance! Chuck their free TV licences into the garbage where they belong!

Well I don’t know about the inter-generational bit, Bishop Chartres, but this is surely not a definition of equity by anyone’s standards. If the old saved, are they to be blamed for the subsequent fruits of this thrift? After a lifetime of paying for the welfare state, is it so bad that they draw on the account into which they paid so heavily? Isn’t it only civilised that those who first defended and then rebuilt this nation are afforded some respect and extra consideration? The Pinchists reject it all. Anyone who has anything that anyone else doesn’t have doesn’t deserve to have it, they argue — even if they have slogged their guts out for it. Is that not the sacred dogma of the religion of redistribution?

What this totally ignores is the many ways in which older people are subsidising the younger generations. According to a report by JP Morgan Asset Management, more than one third of grandparents say they are contributing to their family’s everyday living costs. A fifth have helped their children raise a deposit for a house, a quarter have paid some of the money towards a holiday, and just over a third buy school uniforms and clothes for their grandkids or help cover the cost of school trips. Figures from Carers UK show that 1.3 million pensioners are caring for disabled or older loved ones, up a third over the last 10 years. This saves the economy £119 billion a year.

Everyone has suffered from economic short-termism, fractured regulation, irresponsible bankers — and from the reckless spending of all those consumers, old and young, who have behaved as if there were no economic tomorrow. Yes, it is true that some older people are now pretty well-off. The same is true for some younger people. But according to Age Concern, a quarter of pensioner couples have less than £1,500 in savings between them. More than 1.6 million pensioners live below the poverty line. And they lived through the years when boom turned into bust, and when near-zero interest rates wiped out the value of people’s savings. Ever heard of negative equity?

The readiness to point the finger at the elderly is all of a piece with a particularly odious British attitude. In most societies, the elderly are revered. But the British treat them worse than in almost any other European country, coming 17th out of 20 in terms of the percentage of national income spent on long-term residential care and home help for pensioners. Today’s boomers face the grim prospect of being increasingly dumped in old people’s homes by younger generations who no longer feel any duty to care.

Older people also face the prospect of being starved or dehydrated to death at the hands of doctors or nurses in an NHS which has proven, in recent weeks, how badly it can treat those are least able to complain.

Of course, all such generalisations do scant justice to the complexities of reality. There are plenty of selfish older people and selfless younger folk. But that’s the point about Pinchism — it avoids facing the difficult decisions that need to be made by creating caricaturable scapegoats instead.

The unfairly pilloried elderly could return fire. They could argue that the younger generations have been cosseted by welfare, are awarded university degrees regardless of knowing next to nothing, spend their days preening on Facebook or texting friends on their iPhones while turning up their noses at the jobs on offer and producing an unstoppable flow of fatherless children — all the time moaning that society owes them a living.

But to say that would be as nasty and unfair and distorted as the war against the older generation. So I won’t. The fact is that — as someone once said — we’re all in this together, and the generations will sink or swim together. That’s the real pinch.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist and publisher of emBooks. She debates Shiv Malik, co-author of Jilted Generation, on this week’s ‘View from 22’:  spectator.co.uk/podcast

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • Roy

    No more correct or common sense person exists in Britain than Melanie Phillips.

    • mikewaller

      I could not disagree more. Whenever I read a piece of hers I think that had she been a barrister and I had committed an ‘orrible murder, she would have been my counsel of choice.

      Born in 1944, I am a war baby and therefore stand above the fray [:-)]. What is obvious to me is that in this debate -appallingly as they behaved – the bankers are as much scapegoats as villains. Of the about £4 trillion of debt that is now being hung round the necks of the coming generations (it’s still rising, BTW) the great banking crisis contributed about a quarter and that will very significantly reduce as nationalised banks are sold back into private hands.

      The rest is largely down to a complicit electorate “selling” their votes to which ever party was offering the best smorgasbord of goodies to be paid for by wanging it on the National plastic.

      Then. of course, there is the greatest lie of all: we paid in therefore we should get out. The truth is we paid in was just enough to support the elderly in the generations that came before us; this because, as originally set up by Lloyd George, welfare costs and NHS costs etc.etc. are funded out of general taxation i.e. unlike a proper pension scheme, there is no pot of money on which to draw. Fortunately for us, the generations we had to support smoked far more than we did and many more worked in industries that shortened their lives. The difference has been such that I recall one politician claiming that within a couple of decades life expectancy increased by over 10 years. In short, whereas our parents, by dying early, let us off lightly, we are expecting generations who because of globalistion face far bigger challenges than we did, to lash out far more money to support us into our 90s. Don’t seem very just to me.

      • Mike

        “The truth is we paid in was just enough to support the elderly in the generations that came before us” — NOT TRUE

        You have conveniently forgotten that NI contributions are not a fixed amount but a percentage of earnings for both employee and employer. In my particular case I along with my employers paid in more than 10 times that of a shop worker so my contributions easily paid my share for the previous generation and was very over subscribed for my own paltry state pension.

        Had I paid the same amount as a lower paid worker, your point would have some validity but for me and many others, your statement is very flawed.

        As you said “Don’t seem very just to me” but for opposite reasons !

        • mikewaller

          Taking the cap off NI contributions had nothing to do with you putting more in for your pension; it was simply a means of increasing general taxation. And given that the previous generations had paid higher rate tax at levels of 60% and in some cases way above that, you have still been a lot better off than your equivalent in previous generations i.e. you paid very significantly less proportionately than did the equivalent rich guys of earlier generations. That is way all the figures I have seen are showing massive increases in net income differentials across the country. I am certainly not a communist, but it does seem to me a bit rich that having done sufficiently well as to have paid so much tax (inc.NI contributions), you complain about your “paltry” state pension. Surely the ample provision you have made for yourself makes that academic?

          The people that have the real problem with our very low state pension are those who, for whatever reason, have to exist on it alone. Frankly, I cannot imagine how they do it. Sadly whilst it would no doubt be lovely to give both you and them more, the burden on the young would be astronomical for two reason; first the huge and unprecedented number of pensioners; second, and as a consequence, a shift in the worker pensioner ratio from around 15:1 just after WW2 to the period into which we are heading were it will sink well below 5:1.

  • Callan

    Correct Roy. If only Cameron had a “Babe” like Melanie. Willetts and Bishop Chartres should read a thing or two about the Cultural Revolution in China. It is very close to what they are advocating.

    • Mike

      Yep, whilst they’re fat and happy living off others !

  • manonthebus

    It is not just the working baby-boomers of pensionable age who contribute to the economy. A pensioner with savings will pay an enormous amount of tax on both whilst being swindled by the BoE’s base rate policy and QE. Pensioners have to live somewhere, so the value of the house is immaterial until death when the heirs will have a lovely party plus flash cars. Even then, the state (i.e. you) will screw a great deal of IHT out of the estate of every prudent pensioner.

  • george

    The problem with the article, I think, is that baby boomers aren’t the productive ‘elderly’ over 65: they’re 65 and under. They are the children born through a string of years following the end of WWII, which is why so many people we associate with baby boomers — the ones singing to them, stoking their grievances and selling them drugs — are not actually of that generation but older.

  • Paul1985

    What a moronic fact free article. The NHS and pensions now make up the bulk of government spending so it is no wonder that older people are doing well in the jobs market since they are healthy and have a safety net. This is good news yes, but government spending on the young is being hacked to pieces at the same time. To claim that there is a war on the elderly has to be the dopiest thing I have read this year.

    • Mike

      The real moronic facts are that re-distribution doesn’t work as clearly seen in places like Zimbabwe.

      The point of this article is that all manner of establishments elite from politicians to the well heeled church seem out to beat up on baby boomers with the explicit desire to re-distribute wealth from the prudent to the looters and smoochers. This blatant example of avarice and vindictive theft is standard fair for the champagne socialists and needs to be shown for what it is. This article puts in perspective the genuine contribution made by the elderly to the economy of the country and far from being a burden on the state they are being short changed instead.

      As an example, I paid in 42 years of NI contributions with the promise by successive governments that I’d get a liveable state pension and health care. During all my working life, my total health costs amounted to 1 night in hospital after a minor op and as a high earner, I paid in 10 times that of a shop worker in NI contributions, but still get the same paltry state pension. Not only that, that shop worker gets a pension top up whilst I don’t because I don’t qualify.

      Whilst most of the young can afford expensive smart phones & tablets, two of more foreign holidays a year and can get blitzed on a Friday and Saturday night, I would suggest they need to adjust their priorities and follow the example of baby boomers when they were that age.

  • Robert Taggart

    If you had to live with one of them – even if you had to live off one of them – you will be sure to have reason to MOAN, GROAN…
    Signed, middle-aged ‘kipper’ !

  • Teacher

    The whole intergenerational blame game is an attempt to shift responsibilty from those who really robbed the young through casino banking and spendthrift policies onto a group who are suffering the ill effects of thr financial crash and subsequent austerity, the post-war babies, now grey and crippled by QE. In fact, this generation has been prudent, hard working, responsible and worked to make the propsperity which was so fecklessly hosed away and to blame them because they have been left with something when others are poor is a bitter irony.

    I am 56 and worked entirely to give my two children a start in life. One has found a job and the other a precarious, temporary internship andf I am still supporting them by providing a home, transport and other necessities to launch careers. I suspect this intergenerational envy nonsense is an attempt by government and financial institutions to grab what little I have to carry on wasting it when my intentions are to launch two educated, responsible contributors to the economy.

  • rob232

    This idea that anyone born before1965 is a Baby Boomer is relatively new. As long as I remember this only meant the people born in the late forties just after the war during the Baby Boom.
    Even now the people reaching retirement age are those born in the forties. So the vast majority of pensioners were born before or during the war. I hardly think these people’s lives can be favourably compared to those of young people today.

  • ohforheavensake

    And some actual facts-


    Really, Melanie. You just don’t do your homework.

    • rob232

      The requested page “/factchecks/elderly_contribution_economic_recovery-29077” could not be found.

      • Mike

        Probably a load of political lies & spin and someone had the decency to remove it !!!

  • Dan Grover

    I wasn’t really a fan of this article because I felt that Melanie Phllips mischaracterised the opponents to her beliefs somewhat.

    Firstly, I don’t know anyone that thinks its ‘unfair’ per se that one generation had their places in the world come to them somewhat more easily – no one is angry that university used to be free or that house prices used to be cheaper, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t – the challenges faced by the youth of today are different to ~50 years ago and requests for changes to be made to our national policies (ie giving pensioners money at winter time but no one else) don’t need to be justified by their fixing some unfairness – maybe they just aren’t good policies anymore, especially in light of the jobs situation – being a pensioner ain’t what it used to be!

    Secondly, the baby boomers really didnt ‘defend and then rebuild this nation’ – the self congratulatory tone seems a bit out of place in an article about people born well after the war – I should think there are that many people of serving age in 1945 still in work now!

    Thirdly, Melanie talks about immigration, familial breakdown and limited house construction as if they aren’t all the result of the baby boomers voting habits over the last ~30 years, as if we are all equally culpable for that. They are all things that those of us under 30 have never had a say in or had any part of, it’s merely the society we find ourselves in – moulded, for us, by the generations before us (just as we will mould it for the generations behind us). These aren’t naturally occuring events, unstoppable forces – the house building that followed the war and continued for the next several decades stopped. Which leads me onto my final point…

    • Dan Grover

      Rats – I just wrote a long final point but my machine garbled it 🙁

      The short version is that a big part of the problem isn’t merely the sense that it’s ‘unfair’ that the older generations had much better access to buying their own houses than my generation – I’m 25, by the way – but rather than it takes a peculiar selflessness to advocate policies that erode the value of ones assets. That is to say that a big part of the reason why house prices are currently high is that the last several generations of voters have had no interest in lowering property prices – when you’re scrabbling to get up the ladder into the attic with the screaming zombie hoardes below you, it’s not unreasonable to kick the ladder away as soon as you get up there – but it means my generation is stuck fighting over who gets to hide in the cupboard.

      That said, I hold no ill will towards the baby boomer generation at all. I don’t know anyone that does, actually – I think perhaps Ms Phillips has found a sensitive spot touched with this attack of limited appeal due to her generate being in the crosshairs, but it’s not especially popular. My generation doesn’t want to take things away from the older generations – we simply want the same opportunities afforded to those generations before us. The world changes and with it does our society – its not practical to think, with the decline of our skilled industries, that university could be free for all. And in the UK we are fortunate that all have access to university if they want it. However, right now, it’s the exception to find someone below 28 who has a good job who also has a mortgage on a house and doesn’t have tens of thousands of university debt. This isn’t a situation only the exceptions shold find themselves in, and it’ll lead to the continued erosion of meritocracy and we have a whole generation who can only get on the property ladder when their parents die.

      • Mike

        At 68 years of age, I don’t feel any animosity coming from a younger generation towards my prudence but its the champagne socialists in the establishment who are trying to whip up anti-BB feelings with a view to stealing assets from those who worked hard during their lives.

        • Dan Grover

          Well, as we know, that’s the nature of the state full stop, whatever generation the victim belongs to!

    • Mike

      Firstly, the desires of the young today differ markedly from the baby boomers at the same age and those desires are expensive. We didn’t have those desires hence it wasn’t an issue.

      Secondly, it took at least 2 decades to help rebuild Britain after the war before Labour nearly destroyed it and BB’s were part of that work force.

      Thirdly, it took several decades for voters to wake up and smell the coffee to understand that there’s little real difference between the three main parties. They’re all as bad as each other to a greater or lesser extent but with a first past the post system, there was no real choices open to the electorate to vote in a better party. That said, even in countries that had PR, it still didn’t make much difference so to blame voting habits and those who voted (BB’s) is wrong.

      • Dan Grover

        Hi Mike, thanks for the reply.

        Regarding your first point, I think it’s important to look at a change in desires in the context of supply. I assume you’re talking about everyone having expensive phones, twelve televisions, multiple holidays etc? Whilst this is undoubtedly a big change (and not one that’s escaped my BB father, incidentally!), it’s worth noting the trend whereby material goods have become much, much cheaper and real, actual assets like housing have become much more expensive. 40 years ago, choosing to buy a mid-range television would have a much more meaningful impact on ones ability to contribute to their deposit savings than it does today, yet today achieving that goal is so much harder and takes much longer – even if you never do buy an unnecessary (but fun!) gadget.

        Re: your second point, we get back to the argument of what is and isn’t the BB generation, but I think the big forgotten tragedy of your parents generation was that their had to fight for the survival of our country for ~5 bloody years with millions killed, wounded or traumatised, and *then* came back to a country with a destroyed economy and had to rebuild it whilst living in relative poverty – it is typically considered the children of these people as being the Baby Boomers, and whilst they may well have been alive during these years, many would have taken a good decade and a half to enter the workforce. Of course, it’s not really a point worth nicking at too much given that “recovery” isn’t a binary thing – it was not bad one day and good the next but a constant more or less linear improvement, but the real burden to rebuild our country was, I think, in the shoulder of those who also had the misfortune to have to die to defend it.

        Finally, your third point is totally true. There was, I imagine, at least as little choice then as now. FPTP may give certain parties safe seats leading to a lot of wasted votes – but, for the last 40 or so years, BB’s have made up a huge chunk of that electorate who are making those thoughtless, bloc-votes for the party that’s always held that seat, be it Conservatives or Labour (and even Lib Dem – though I shudder of the sort of place whereby the Lib Dems have a safe seat. To their credit, Labour have, historically, a specific audience and have made huge changes to this country for better or worse – but the Lib Dems?! Who owes their allegiance to that shanty band of politically polyglotinous cretins?) I’m certainly not going to harangue an entire generation for not collectively deciding to vote for change because it’s not feasible, but I don’t think it’s possible to ignore the fact that the BB’s were a part of that very system that you’re saying is basically impossible to over-come. They did – and are – a large part of the electorate, make up large parts of the unions and party funders, etc. A lot of it is steered by a political elite, but not all, and that’ll be the case for my generation soon enough, also.

        Again, I don’t want it to sound like I *actually* have a problem with any other generation – you’re given your lot in life and all you can do is make the best of it. I don’t begrudge anyone. But that doesn’t mean we have to like our lot! Personally, I’m doing fine – but I also see a situation coming up that doesn’t do my generation nor this entire country any good, and its effects will go far beyond whiney 20-somethings who suddenly find they can’t afford the new iPhone and have to stick with their 6 month old one instead.

        • Mike

          I generally agree with your points but would make the following additions.

          I accept that property may be harder to fund for the 25-35 group compared to when I bought my first house at 25 but I was a relatively high earner at that time working in the infant computer industry in the early 70’s but many of my peers couldn’t afford a house on 3 times income as I could. As far as the last 15 years are concerned Labour policies caused the property shortages through mass immigration (raising prices) and compounded that problem by Brown unleashing controls over the banks leading to the 5 times salary rules for mortgages. In defence of BB’s, no one voted for mass immigration that created a housing shortage nor setting the financial pimps loose to hand out sub prime loans to any and every one.

          On your second point, I totally agree it was my parents generation born around 1920 who rebuilt the country after 1945 and it was through them that most BB’s learned thrift and prudence which to this day has served them well. I will take some blame for perhaps giving more to my kids than perhaps I should have at an early age but that is the nature of each generation. Problem is I now see grand parents aged 55 or so, handing out iPads to 5-7 year olds which they treat as throw away toys. That is excess gone mad and no wonder todays 10 year olds demand the earth.

          Social attitudes have a habit of going full circle and although its tough on todays young finding a job or buying a house, over time it will get better.

          One aspect on BB’s that hasn’t really been mentioned is the parlous state of private pensions. Despite being prudent and investing in our retirement with various pension provisions, we have been betrayed by government of all colours. Gordon Brown effectively stole a big chunk of my pension fund by removing tax allowances. In itself I can understand governments tinkering with taxation but it was criminal to do it they way he did as BB’s had no opportunity of making up the short fall as they had run out of time to contribute. Added to this injustice, Osbornes no better with IDS by introducing a new enhanced state pension for 2017 (I believe) which we wont get and to add insult to injury, you only have to contribute 30 years instead of my 42 years.

          As I said, politicians of all flavours are a lying bunch of snouts in the trough looking after themselves whilst many are now looking to steal what little we still possess just because we’ve a little bit more than others. They spent the ‘farm’ and because of social needs and wishing to get re-elected, those politically polyglotinous cretins (as you put it) are the worst example of this.

          One small but last point, I wonder how many of todays 25-45 year olds are that concerned in investing for their old age when they saw the way Brown or Osborne treat pensioners. I’m sure many will just sit back believing the state will provide in their old age as whats the point saving for themselves when benefits are stripped or homes have to be sold for care homes.

  • Robert Mitchum

    Do others, like me, sense the remorseless approach of something reminiscent of 1930s Germany? The way seems to be gradually but relentlessly paved towards the conditioning of the population to accept the elimination of all redundant and unproductive humans. More and more we see the elderly being portrayed with scorn, disgust and resentment. Once again, shades of Nazi Germany with the “parasitic elderly” replacing “parasitic Jews”. After all, we’ve already had the Liverpool Care Pathway but the public weren’t sufficiently conditioned so it had to be (temporarily) withdrawn.

  • dave brooker

    There’s too many old people for those of working age to support, old people often live in vast family homes and expect free everything despite being loaded.

    Melanie Phllips is not known as Mad Mel for nothing, why does anyone care what she says??

    • Robert Taggart

      Oneself would blame the NHS !…
      No matter how old they be – the NHS will strive to ‘patch them up’ and ‘keep them going’. No account be taken of their longevity of life, quality of life or the never ending cost to the country of their continuing with life.
      Time we had a cut-off age – at least for life saving healthcare – 70 would be our starting age, 75 if you want to compromise (= 10 years into a state pension – currently – women included soon).
      Methinks those who go on living beyond either of these ages – assuming they are not fit and well (bodily AND mentally) are the selfish ones.
      Death comes to all of us – get used to it, get over it, and, while you still have one – get a life !

  • dave brooker

    “the jobs market still absorbs some 600 immigrants a day”

    Needed to look after all the old people, only those from the third world are prepared to wipe old peoples bottoms for the minimum wage.

  • Ipsmick

    Of course nobody points out that those of us who have decent pensions lived on less while working, because we piled heaps of extra salary into the pension schemes. Nor is it recognised that there were jobs for us, because, before the 1980s and its destruction, we had a functioning economy. And if the young are suffering, that is consequent upon many complex factors, including the creation of a culture where it is excusable for a minority to be paid most of the money.

  • pigou_a

    Does the Spectator even employ fact checkers? There’s a few porkies in here.

    1) “younger generations have been cosseted by welfare”.

    This is false. For example, in 1988/89 Great Britain spent 7.6% of GDP on welfare for children and working age individuals, and 13.1% on pensioners. In 2013/14 Great Britain is forecast to spend 7.4% of GDP on working age welfare and 15.8% on pensioners. In reality spending on working age welfare has gone down, whereas spending on pensioners has risen.


    2) “producing an unstoppable flow of fatherless children”.

    Whereas in reality the ONS figures suggest that 22.1% of families had were headed by a lone parent in 1996 (which could be a father), whereas in 2012 it was 25.7%. An increase of 3.6pp, is that really an unstoppable flow? See


    3) “Older people also face the prospect of being starved or dehydrated to
    death at the hands of doctors or nurses in an NHS which has proven,”

    It’s almost as if Melanie does not bother to read the Spectator. Turns out many of the claims in the press about mistreatment in the NHS over the were rather dubious, as reported by Isabel:

    The really sad thing is that Melanie doesn’t even bother engaging with the debate she’s writing about. The thesis is not complicated: older generations have been awarded more in benefits in health care than they have paid into the welfare state over their careers.

    A very readable account by McCarthy, Sefton and Weale can be found here:


    Yet, she presents no evidence, no links, nothing to persuade anyone, it’s just pathetic.

    This is just one article in a long career of misleading the British public. For example, has Melanie issued a correction for her articles on MMR yet? I bet the 1,170 people who contracted measles (85 hospitalizations) in Swansea this year would like to know.


    The Spectator can do so much better than this.

  • Peppergrinder

    A typically eloquent but superficial Melanie Phillips article – the kind of intellectually weak tosh that she churns out for the Mail but does not sit well in the Spectator. The extreme and simplistic view of inter-generational conflict that she caricatures is easy enough to criticise. But the real argument is far more subtle and nuanced. At its heart lies the fact that for decades the UK has lived beyond its means. Eventually someone is going to have to pay for it. As a baby boomer I have benefited and my children will suffer the consequences. There is no easy solution. Unfortunately this article does not bring us any closer to finding it.