Austerity vs. Solidarity: Intergenerational Conflict in the European Union
Steven K. Wisensale
After the global economic collapse of 2008, many countries in the European Union struggled to salvage their economies by carving away key components of their broad-based social welfare programs. Many of these programs contributed to the creation of solidarity after World War II and following the reunification of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Severe austerity measures strained relations between generations, as pensioners and angry, unemployed youth clashed over entitlements. Consequently, the allocation of resources across generations became a relatively new focal point of debate for policymakers in the EU. Discussed here is how this debate has played out before and after 2008. Also covered is how three countries in particular (France, Germany, and Italy) have addressed this issue within the context of the United States’ experience with intergenerational equity issues. Specific recommendations are offered for conducting the debate so that intergenerational wars can be avoided and solidarity can be preserved between age groups within an era of austerity.
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