Intergenerational solidarity is a term that refers to a complex, specific system of relationships between people of different generations. This can be within the family or in a wider context – including the whole society.
As one of the consequences, the aging of the population brings an increasing burden on the public finance system, the growing needs of health and pension insurance funds. Despite reforms to reduce this burden, it is projected that in OECD countries, by 2050, spending on pensions, health care and long- term care will grow 40% faster than national income growth, and that GNP will have to be higher by some 5 or 6 percent to cover these costs from current assets.
Public debt is one of the major obstacles to intergenerational solidarity, especially as it is structural in most countries and further reforms of public finances are needed to correct fiscal imbalances. Otherwise, the generations to come will inherit an unsustainable fiscal situation that cannot be remedied by reforms.
On the other hand, there are significant transfers of finances and time going in the other direction: in many OECD countries, older family members provide financial support to younger ones, while in many families older members spend time caring for grandchildren while caring for their elderly parents. Analyzing data related to intergenerational relations shows that people who consider older people to be a burden on society are mostly older people themselves.
Therefore, it is justified and necessary to think about raising public awareness of the significant contribution of older people to other generations in society in order to suppress and prevent negative attitudes towards older people, including the elderly themselves.
In the field of social policy, the issues of providing adequate support to families and children are largely related to the relations between different generations and the issues of pensions and long-term care. There is a need to find a way to balance pension revenues with long-term fiscal and financial stability. Three ways are proposed: longer working lives, better targeting of social transfers to cover those most in need, and greater representation of private pension funds to compensate for the decline in public funds. Regarding long-term care, it is necessary to increase the efficiency and funding of formal long-term care, but also to provide greater support to informal care providers. This support should include: financial benefits for informal caregivers to avoid the risks associated with their participation in the lower paid and largely unregulated part of the labor market; greater opportunities for informal caregivers to balance private life with work responsibilities; support services for informal caregivers, such as respite services, training and counseling.
Formal provision of long-term care services should be universally accessible, but above all focused on where the needs are greatest. In that sense, the level of need that obliges the provision of formal care should be better defined, and although the service should be universally available, some costs (for example, accommodation and food) can be shared. The goal should always be for people to stay in their homes as long as possible, with the use of modern information and communication technology.
The questions we need to ask ourselves when it comes to intergenerational solidarity are:
- Uniting different generations
- How do social protection and labor market policies relate to an aging population and what are their effects on intergenerational solidarity?
- How can we best combine the resources (skills, time, money) of all age groups and generations in order to meet the needs of society without placing disproportionately high demands on any group?
- How can public policies strengthen intergenerational solidarity and unite generations?
- Retirement and pensions
- What are the most important challenges in achieving a good balance between adequate pensions and the sustainability of the public pension insurance system?
- Will encouraging people to work longer and better targeting social transfers help improve adequacy and sustainability?
- What are the main obstacles to adopting these policies?
- What are the best ways to combine intergenerational support in the family with the support provided by the system?
- What measures can the state take to help care arrangements for children within families?
- What support do family care providers need for the elderly and for people with disabilities or mental illness, and how can this support be best provided?
dr Milutin Vračević
Serbian Red Cross