The Politics of Intergenerational Conflict: A Comparative Study of the UK and Japan

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Debora PRICE , Institute of Gerontology, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
Mayumi HAYASHI , Social Science, Health and Medicine, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
Utae MORI , Faculty of Economics, Osaka University of Economics, Osaka, Japan
Lynne LIVSEY , LQR Associates, Glanton, Northumberland, United Kingdom
Suzanne MOFFATT , Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Internationally we are witnessing renewed conflict over political settlements and attempts to forge a new moral economy of welfare in economically straightened times. In some (but not all) advanced economies these disputes are crystallising around the concept of intergenerational equity with a noticeable re-positioning of older people as the selfish welfare generation.  In this paper we consider the recent resurgence/emergence of discourses of intergenerational conflict in the politics of financing later life, especially pensions and social care, in the UK and Japan.  In both countries there are calls in government and public life for a rebalancing of public expenditure in favour of youth, while age-divisive policies set up the intellectual and political debate as a matter of intergenerational tension.  Both are wealthy, advanced democracies, with old and ageing populations, facing prolonged austerity. Yet in many cultural, political and institutional respects they are quite different and have historically combined different modes of governing in the interests of social welfare. The UK emphasises free will, individualism and market solutions, whilst in Japan, the emphasis is on balancing free-market thinking with some sense of social responsibility and community, along with calls for reforms of existing collectivist policies, all in the context of strong traditions of intergenerational solidarity and filial piety.  We consider how and why this policy prescriptive language has emerged in both countries, what purposes it is serving, and what the consequences might be for the distribution of resources in later life.  We then assess analysis of each country in comparative perspective, highlighting factors that contribute to differences or features that transcend national boundaries. We conclude that publicly framing the allocation of financial resources as a matter of intergenerational conflict masks inequalities in the social distribution of resources within all age groups that arise with the increased marketisation of late life welfare.