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In 2013 we will celebrate the 65th birthday of the first baby boomers. Members of the first wave of this generation begin their inevitable descent into pension-funded geriatric orgies, young people can look towards the future with an ever more pessimistic outlook.
Baby boomers will be the parents of most Vic students and essentially, they are acting like dicks. Our Parliament, like most Western parliaments, is mostly composed of old white dudes. Said old white dudes have not shown much inclination to take progressive action in tackling the issues that they themselves present. The imminent increase in the burden on our pension, health and aged-care systems has not been accounted for.
Our retirement age sits at 65, and it doesn’t take an expert in demographics to tell you that the cost of superannuation is going to skyrocket over the next decade. had Muldoon not taken to the Super Fund in 1975 with an axe, there would’ve been a whopping $340 billion to ease the drain of these sexagenerians. In the 2011, election Labour pledged to slowly lift the retirement age to 67, a move that would’ve saved the country over $100 billion over 30 years. In spite of the unlikelihood of this policy eventuating, it has at least triggered a dialogue about the problems that our ageing population poses.
David Cunliffe recently referred to the “intergenerational swindle” taking place in New Zealand and he is so very, very right. Basically, young people are being asked to pay their own way where the older generation never did and, on top of this, support their parents and grandparents. It is hardly surprising that young New Zealanders are moving to Australia in droves, disengaging with politics and try to block out the non-future being offered to them.
So, what can we do? Short of mass extermination, there are limited options. We might just have to grit our teeth and realise that we are going to have to pay a bit more tax and live a less luxurious life for the benefit of the temporally advanced in our society. But, in doing so, we need to ensure that we don’t pose the same problem to our children. A ‘Future generations Commissioner’ has been implemented in Hungary, with the purpose of scrutinising government policy in light of its future impact. With a constitutional review in progress, perhaps now is an opportune time to look into the possibility of implementing such a concept in New Zealand. This would not only help to alleviate future financial burdens but to address issues such as climate change as well. Groups like Generation Zero prove that young people have the potential to be forward thinking and proactive about issues that have long term consequences.
Young people are (allegedly) narcissistic, entitled and apathetic. Those making these claims, our parents, are likely to have attended university for free, got a solid job and bought a home. None of this is certain for us. They look at our iPhones and see a disconnected and consumerist cohort. We look at our student loan debt, the prospect of a huge mortgage and decide that yes, we will play another game of Angry Birds because nothing else is looking quite as achievable.