New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Fergus Carr and Andrew Massey
Chapter 16: Change, Pensions and Ageing in Europe: Discourses of Risk and Security
Kay Peggs INTRODUCTION The changing demographic structure of the European Union (EU), with older people comprising an increasing proportion of its population, has been allied with discourses of individual and collective risk. Negative discourses, for example focusing on the age dependency ratio, present this increasing proportion of older people as a growing burden to employees and governments alike. Much has been said about the risks that an increasing number of older people pose, with a focus on societal ageing and the future pensions bill in Europe. Risk is central to these assumptions since enormous sums of money are involved. Thus ‘it’s all fertile ground for the alarmists’ (Littlewood, 1998, p. 1). The purpose of this chapter is to consider such discourses and to draw attention to the ways in which government policies and initiatives pose a risk to the security (both ﬁnancial and otherwise) of this signiﬁcant and increasing proportion of the population of the EU. Change and the risks associated with change are an important feature of this chapter, not least in its focus on the recent enlargement of the EU. In EU countries separately, and in combination, discourses connected with societal ageing have caused alarm, leading to government, pressure group, media, academic, and individual engagement with these risk discourses. However, such engagements are differentially aligned. For example, concern about hugely increased future pension costs has induced governments and other commentators to engage in debates about policy changes and individual ﬁnancial security as a route to the protection...
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