Angus Hanton, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation (IF), visited Bradford Grammar School (BGS) to talk to Year 12 and Year 13 students about issues surrounding intergenerational fairness.
IF is an independent ‘thinktank’ that focuses on intergenerational fairness in the UK. It believes that each generation should pay its own way. This, they say, is not happening at present and British policy-makers have given undue advantages to the older generation at the expense of younger and future generations.
An economist and entrepreneur, Angus became interested in the problems of intergenerational equity several years ago. As a baby boomer with teenage children, he realises that he has enjoyed many of the unearned advantages of belonging to this cohort and is acutely aware of the accumulation of debts that are being passed on to younger generations.
Angus said: “I wanted to talk to pupils about fairness between the generations, so giving the older generation and the younger generation a ‘fair share’ of our economic resources and not exploiting the fact that there are more of the older generation who are in a position of power. Instead of just looking at social justice through the lens of class and fairness between rich and poor, I want young people to look at social justice through a new lens of fairness – between the generations.”
I didn’t want to focus too much on things like pensions because it’s hard for them to have an interest in their own pension, never mind other peoples’. But they can certainly relate to the housing crisis, tuition fees, the very high level of interest rates for student loans and how these issues are unfair on the younger generation.”
Angus also spoke about other issues such as the environment and the legacy the older generation have left, detailing how we’re inclined to ‘not worry’ or ‘do enough for renewable sources’. Another very important strand of his talk was about ‘democracy’.
“Many young people who are over 16 and under 18 may say ‘why don’t I get a vote?’ especially considering that the majority of MPs believe they should. This is a very important subject to tackle, and equally important for young people to have their say, particularly with Brexit, as they can see how the democratic vote hasn’t served the younger generation very well”.
The problem he says, “is the older generation dominate our democracy, partly because there are more of them, they’re more inclined to vote and to lobby. But they’re more inclined because we use this very Victorian method of going into a polling booth with a pencil and that’s not what the younger generation are in the habit of doing. They are in the habit of clicking, going on their phones and saying what they approve of. Estonia has a system where people can vote online from any device – so why don’t we?”
“We also need to have systematic ways to ensure the younger generation are represented in our democracy and say that by law every planning committee in the country should have at least one person who’s under 30, every parish council has to, and decisions shouldn’t be made without that representation.
This would be a reasonable counterbalance to the fact that the older generation are living longer and therefore are starting to swamp younger generations in the democratic process. For example, with local councillors their average age has gone up by five or six years in the last 15 years.”
Angela McOwen, BGS Politics teacher said: “I was delighted to have Angus speaking to our Sixth Formers as he is a leading advocate of the concept of ‘Intergenerational Fairness’. Our students are already aware of social injustice around issues of class, ethnicity and gender, and rightly so.
Unfortunately, the way in which many areas of our economic, social and political life are skewed to the benefit of the baby boomer generation is a debate that few of our young people have even considered, let alone taken action on. To have an expert like Angus informing our boys and girls about the ‘new lens in policy-making’ is a real privilege and I hope they take the opportunity to connect with the Intergenerational Foundation and their advocacy work.”
“What a brilliant school, with such lovely people and a fantastic building and heritage. I also love Bradford, so I felt right at home with my visit.”