While we might not feel we are at war with our younger or older colleagues we have successfully segregated the ages into stereotypical categories. Gen Y, Gen X, Millenials and the list goes on. It has been argued by some that these demographic differences and the demographic changes we face might give rise to scuffles …
There has been much written about our differences and how we can adapt and interact across the age groups. In defining these differences we have set up ‘camps’ into which we can rest comfortably, and from which we can enter into combat.
A focus on our differences fosters generational disharmony
If you’re not sure what the difference and categories of ‘age’ McCrindle have identified a set of defining characteristics of the current age groupings.
Others have done more than simply categorise our differences and moved toward pitting the ages against each other!
Burden or benefit of the different generations?
Arguments are being mounted around the burden that one generation places on another. This debate only ever seems to happen at the policy or political level, never have I seen it in the community or at a family level.
This is not to say there is no ageism in our communities, but that is a slightly different matter to a ‘theoretical’ combative relationship between the generations.
Why then do we need this debate at a policy level – what purpose does it serve? In Australia, it seems to signal and be used to argue for the need to change structures like our tax system, funding of our aged care support and welfare benefits.
Peace despite generational diversity – is it possible?
In a post by Rebecca Wilson, we were asked to think about how we can reframe our thinking on the value and contribution of each age group – by not limiting ‘value’ to simply workforce engagement.
Rebecca drew on the work of Simon Biggs who argued “the best way to manage global ageing is principally through cultural adaptation” he went on to say
“We need to stop pitting generations against each other in our country, and all over the world and start to build complementary inter-generational relations that bridge the workplace, the family, government policy and civil society.”
Rebecca and I must be living in parallel universes as I also read his paper and, like her, I welcomed his thoughts on this debate. While his paper is ‘academic’ he raises some key points worthy of consideration and I would recommend it to you.
Some of the myths Simon’s paper explores are
- older people are a burden on the tax system – where a countries % of a countries taxation comes from indirect consumption tax an older demographic continues to make an ongoing contribution to the countries taxation base.
- younger generations don’t want to support old generations – younger generations are not antagonistic to providing for older people in the community as long as they can continue to expect this support when they age.
- employment of older people represents a barrier for the employment of young people – no evidence exists to support this and in fact the evidence contradicts it.
“Policy should be less about work continuation versus reinvented retirement, and more about allowing mature adults to develop multiple aspects of their identity, and in so doing permitting … contributions to the wider social good.”
Just one more point in this ongoing debate that I thought was worth sharing with you, any thoughts
Further Reading –
Simon Biggs paper can be downloaded here.