Family and the Welfare State in Europe

Family and the Welfare State in Europe

Intergenerational Relations in Ageing Societies

Agnes Blome, Wolfgang Keck and Jens Alber

This insightful book explores the role of both the family and the state in shaping the living conditions of the young and old in Europe. It provides a comparative theoretical and empirical analysis of age-related policies and welfare arrangements in Germany, France, Italy and Sweden.

Chapter 9: Does a Generational Conflict Exist? Differences in Attitudes by Age Group

Agnes Blome, Wolfgang Keck and Jens Alber

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, welfare states


An unending flood of publications has warned for years that the conflict between the generations is looming (Preston 1984; Quadagno 1989; Klöckner 2003; Gronemeyer 2004; Schirrmacher 2004). The basis for it is seen, as a rule, in at least two developments. First, rising life expectancy, coupled with low fertility, has led to a massive ageing of the population nearly everywhere in Europe that can be countered only inadequately through migration (United Nations 2000). Second, so it is argued, families are becoming more brittle, such that solidarity between generations reduces. In short, these developments threaten the social and economic sustainability of European societies. We largely confined ourselves here to an examination of social sustainability. For four policy areas with age-specific benefits we investigated who benefits from the welfare state as well as how close the cohesion still is between older and younger family members. Still, the analysis of ‘objective’ conditions does not by itself allow any conclusions to be drawn about the potential for generational conflicts. For that reason, we investigated to what extent subjective orientations might indicate a potential for conflict between age cohorts. After sketching out what the literature indicates are possible lines of conflict, giving us the conceptual framework for our analyses, we look at the extent to which age or gender attitudinal differences toward key social policy questions point to a conflict between the generations. 9.1 POSSIBLE LINES OF CONFLICT BETWEEN THE GENERATIONS Pension schemes are the largest single expenditure item in all modern welfare states,...

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