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How the Tories can tackle generational inequality

23 April 2021

8:53 PM

23 April 2021

8:53 PM

Covid is far more fatal for the old than the young. But it is the young who have borne the economic and social brunt of the pandemic. It is, as I say in The Times today, a basic matter of fairness that the government now tries to help them.

The government does have schemes such as Kickstart and the bonus for taking on apprentices designed to prevent mass youth unemployment. But if there are limits on how many people firms can have in offices or factories even after 21 June, they will be reluctant to take on apprentices, even if the government is offering them thousands of pounds to do so.


The biggest challenge for our leaders, though, is ending the generational bias in politics. Older people turn out to vote more than the young: almost three quarters of pensioners voted at the last general election, compared with just under half of the under-25s. Add to this the fact that the Conservatives had a 47 point lead among those of pensionable age at the last election and it isn’t hard to see why Boris Johnson insisted that the pension triple lock must stay in place, despite the damage that Covid has done to the public finances.

But continuing this imbalance risks creating an angry generation who won’t move to the political centre in the way that their parents and grandparents did. This is particularly true as the events that traditionally lead people away from their youthful politics are happening later and later: the average age of a first-time homebuyer in England is now 32, whereas in 1997 more than half of 26-years-olds owned their own home. Heterosexual couples are 11 years older when they get married than they would have been in 1970.

One way the Tories can start addressing this generational imbalance is ensuring that any tax increase to fund reform of social care doesn’t fall on the young: an age specific increase in National Insurance would be fairer than an across the board rise. The best solution, however, may be to require the over-40s to buy compulsory social care insurance. The premiums could be deducted directly from their monthly salaries in the same way that student loan repayments are taken off young graduates’ wages.

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