Governments need to step up and address Intergenerational Fairness– says Citizens’ Jury

Published at 00:01 AM on 12 March 2016

A Citizens’ Jury convened by BritainThinks for PwC has called on Governments to step up and take control of intergenerational challenges, focusing on the long term rather than electoral appeal. The findings have been submitted to the Work & Pensions Committee Inquiry on Intergenerational Fairness.

The 22 strong jury – with three age groups*and a range of backgrounds - spent two days assessing equality between generations. They heard from ‘expert witnesses’ with a range of views and perspectives.  

The research was supplemented with a broader survey of 2,000 people. The findings show:

  • While 58% of people age 51-70 plus feel financially better off than their parents’ generation, the same is true of only 28% of people age 18-32
  • For those who feel worse off, the cost and availability of housing is the top reason (52% of people)
  • 57% people think Governments need to do something about intergenerational fairness but society also has a role to work together (say 25% of people)

In addressing challenges for younger generations, the Jury advocated measures that would work for all generations (inequalities within generations being equally important).

Kevin Nicholson, executive board member and head of tax at PwC, commented:

“There’s a lot of talk about intergenerational fairness, and without proper debate there’s risk of simmering resentment. Rather than pitting generations against each other, people need to come together to assess and address societal challenges. Solutions invariably involve give and take.”

Tackling housing shortages was seen as key priority for the Jury. It saw a connection between the problems facing people buying their first home and an increasing lack of housing in the UK.

The Jury’s key recommendations included:

  • A Government backed fund that enables citizens with capital to invest in building more residential housing (which could be an alternative to buy-to-let).  

When this idea was tested with the wider survey population, nearly a third of people (29%) said they would rethink the importance of owning property if they could have a stake in the housing market in this type of alternative way.

  • Measures to encourage downsizing, which the Jury thought would help encourage movement in the property market. They proposed a stamp duty exemption that a couple/individual could use on one downsize in a lifetime, and also for the first home purchase.

Across the survey sample of homeowners, 45% said they would be more likely to move to a smaller or cheaper home if they did not have to pay stamp duty.

  • On pensions, the jury agreed the value of the state pension needs a fair degree of protection against inflation, but felt the so-called ‘triple lock’ could be adjusted with a lower guarantee (such as a 1.75% annual increase). They called for a similar ‘lock’ for benefits that low-paid workers rely on to top up their wages.

Some 80% of survey respondents felt the triple lock should be protected. However, when then considered in light of average incomes for pensioners rising faster than average worker incomes, the number that agreed with the current protections fell to 67%.

  • Some jurors felt wealthier pensioners should not be entitled to free bus passes, winter fuel allowance and TV licenses. Views were also split across the survey sample – with almost half (48%) feeling all pensioners should receive these benefits, and 42% thinking they should be means tested.

Kevin Nicholson, executive board member and head of tax at PwC, said:

“Addressing major challenges around housing and pensions risks opening a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences. We need fresh thinking, and a willingness to take incremental steps. Tax is one of the levers to nudge behaviour, and the majority of people we surveyed think it has a role to play in the intergenerational challenge.”

 

-ENDS-

 

Notes to editors

The Citizens’ Jury took place on 16-17 February

On behalf of PwC, BritainThinks recruited 22 members of the British public, representing different social and economic groups and a range of locations (urban and rural)

The jury was designed to ensure representation from each of the following three generations:

Generation Y/Millennials (born between 1985 and 2000)

Generation X (born between 1965 and 1984)

Babyboomers (born between 1946 and 1964)

All participants were of an age that meant they site in the ‘middle’ of their generation, by selecting age brackets of 20-7, 40-50 and 60-67.

Expert witnesses were:

Lord Willetts, Executive Chair of the Resolution Foundation

Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies

Jane Vass, Head of Public Policy, Age UK

Catherine Hand, Partner, Trowers & Hamlins

David Johnston, Chief Executive, Social Mobility Foundation

Stephen Burke, Chief Executive, United for All Ages

 

Polling

The Citizens’ Jury was supplemented with a survey conducted by Opinium of 2,0002 nationally representative adults age 18+, which took place from 26th February and 1 March.


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