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Who is going to pay for all our old people?

Author: Philip Johnston
First published:, 03/02/2009

An ageing population was not a problem – until the crunch came along, says Philip Johnston.

We are facing an age crisis, not just because we are living longer but also because our children will have to bear the burden, yet are singularly ill-equipped to do so. A two-year study commissioned by the Children’s Society, for which 35,000 youngsters were interviewed, has concluded that they are less capable than any previous generation. It blames poor education, broken homes and the “excessively individualistic ethos” of contemporary Britain. The lives of children, it says somewhat dubiously, are more difficult now than they were in the past.

Presumably by “past” the researchers mean since the mid-1950s. How could it possibly be said that children now lead a more difficult life than they did when they had to leave school and start work at 14 or were raised in the squalid slums of Victorian England or were as likely as not to die from a ghastly disease? Have these people never read Mayhew’s London? But if today’s children, with all the material goods they have, consider themselves miserable now, they should see what the future holds. Not only will they have to spend the next 25 years paying off the accumulated debt of the past 10, including the additional borrowing needed to bail out the banks, they also face something that is by any definition a great economic and social transformation: the rapid ageing of the population.

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