Yesterday I went to see Steve Webb, the new pensions minister, speak at a debate sponsored by the International Longevity Centre (ILC). With some trepidation, because I find pensions terrifying. I know I don’t have enough of one, and I don’t understand them.
The debate was quite consoling, because it was clear, firstly, that pensions are really difficult to understand (it’s not just me) and secondly, that Steve Webb, despite only having been in the job a month, is one of a small minority of people who does understand them. He previously worked at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, specialising in pensions.
Before we sat down, I spoke to a pensions adviser who told me that the state pension was ‘in the international third division’ and private pensions no longer provided enough to live on. Essentially, we are all doomed. Continue reading →
Wading through the new Office for Budget Responsibility’s analysis of the state of the British economy, it’s obvious that the ageing population will be a significant factor when it comes to restoring growth (or not). The pre-budget forecast highlights real dangers of a slowdown caused by fewer people working and higher demands on pensions and health and social care. But ageing remains a variable factor in the recovery – because much will depend on how long older people continue to work and consume, on whether extended life is healthy or beset by chronic illness, and on the role that will be played by immigrants. Continue reading →
David Willetts’ book is subtitled, ‘How the baby boomers took their children’s future – and why they should give it back.’ This seems to imply a malign intention on the part of the post-war generation and, sure enough, at points in the book, Willetts talks of the ‘ultra-individualism unleashed’ by this generation, whose failure to exercise self-control he deplores. If you are part of a large cohort, he argues, ‘you will be able to spend your life in a generational bubble, always outvoting and outspending the generations before and after you.’ We are the selfish generation.
But can we help ourselves? It isn’t clear. A book subtitled, ‘How the baby boomers took their children’s future – but that’s what large cohorts do,’ wouldn’t have had quite the same edge. You get the sense that Willetts would quite like to be cross with the boomers (of whom he is one, having been born in 1956) because they have behaved very badly, but he knows it would be intellectually dishonest, because they didn’t have the faintest idea what they were doing.
The policy agreement from the new British coalition government is a seven-page summary, put together under 11 headings, in private and under pressure. Inevitably, it’s a bit thin in places – often more a statement of shared principles than specific intentions. So what does it mean for older people? And what can we infer from what has been lifted – and left out – from the Conservatives’ and Liberal Democrats’ respective election manifestos about how the new government has resolved to address pensions, tax, retirement and care?
Two-thirds of Chinese can currently look forward to a destitute old age. China faces the prospect of tens of millions of low-wage workers maturing into indigent urban elders between 2020 and 2030, with untold social and political consequences.
A new report from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, The Graying Of The Middle Kingdom Revisited, analyses China’s current state of preparedness for its rapidly ageing population and makes persuasive recommendations for a pensions policy which could avert disaster.