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The social dimensions of climate change

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 1 summarises our best knowledge about the predicted future of global warming and its potentially catastrophic implications for human habitats and human wellbeing. The policy options are summarised, divided between programmes to mitigate climate change and to adapt to it. But climate policy alone could be unjust and inequitable. The goal must be to respect biophysical boundaries while at the same time pursuing sustainable wellbeing: that is, wellbeing for all current peoples as well as for future generations. This means paying attention to its distribution between peoples, and to issues of equity and social justice. Between an upper boundary set by biophysical limits and a lower boundary set by decent levels of wellbeing for all today lies a safe and just space for humanity. The chapter concludes by noting two global landmarks in 2015: the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris climate agreement. Together they reveal a yawning gap between what is needed for a safe climate and the prospects for a just and flourishing society.

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Wim van Oorschot and Femke Roosma

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Foreword

Attitudes to Welfare Deservingness

Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Femke Roosma, Bart Meuleman and Tim Reeskens

Open access

Three dimensions of generational justice

Justice, Institutions and Outcomes

Simon Birnbaum, Tommy Ferrarini, Kenneth Nelson and Joakim Palme

In the chapter the authors develop a justice-based argument for why it matters whether the generational welfare contract is balanced and provide equally comprehensive social protection against different age-related social risks. This establishes a normative starting point for the authors’ empirical investigations on how welfare states affect different age groups. Building on the prudential lifespan account of justice between age groups, one set of considerations focuses on how to facilitate stable intergenerational cooperation to enhance life prospects of all successive generations as they move through the different stages of life. A second source of arguments is the ideal of relational equality, bringing attention to inequalities between people in different life stages, especially with respect to goods that matter to their relative power and social status. Finally, a third layer of considerations is derived from justice between non-contemporaries and the requirements of just savings for future generations.

Open access

Profiling the generational welfare contract

Justice, Institutions and Outcomes

Simon Birnbaum, Tommy Ferrarini, Kenneth Nelson and Joakim Palme

In this chapter the authors empirically investigate the generational structure of social citizenship in 18 OECD countries, using new comparative data on income replacement in social insurance directed at three different age-related social risks: childhood, working age and old age. For the period 1980–2010, they identify different types of generational welfare contracts and analyse how they are related to levels of income replacement. Greater balance in the generational structure of social citizenship seems to improve the overall comprehensiveness of the system as well as levels of income replacement in social insurance for each separate age-related social risk; thus supporting their hypothesis of positive-sum solutions in generational politics. While the authors find a general development towards greater balance in the generational structure of social citizenship, as levels of income replacement in social insurance over time have become more evenly distributed across age-related risks, cross-country differences remain substantial.

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Politics of generational welfare contracts

Justice, Institutions and Outcomes

Simon Birnbaum, Tommy Ferrarini, Kenneth Nelson and Joakim Palme

The chapter analyses the political foundations of the generational welfare contract and the patterning of age-related social citizenship rights by focusing on partisan politics. The authors argue that positive-sum solutions in generational politics are more likely to arise in countries where specialized age-related claims for welfare are incorporated into class politics by the presence of strong left parties. The analyses provide support to such class-political and party-oriented explanations. For the period 1960–2010, confessional parties also had a certain influence on the generational structure of social citizenship, and the degree to which income replacement in major social insurance schemes is balanced across age-related social risks. However, this relationship disappeared for the most recent period 1980–2010, which is characterized foremost by expansion of modern family benefits where countries dominated by confessional parties are lagging. Central structural factors – such as the old-age dependency ratio – lack explanatory value for the generational structure of social citizenship.

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Noemi Lendvai-Bainton and Patricia Kennett

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The generational welfare contract on the agenda

Justice, Institutions and Outcomes

Simon Birnbaum, Tommy Ferrarini, Kenneth Nelson and Joakim Palme

In the final chapter, the authors return to the issues raised in the first three chapters of the book, and discuss their theoretical expectations in light of the empirical results. Population ageing raises concerns about the feasibility of strategies that rely on comprehensive welfare states for serving different goals and standards of well-being and social justice. One reason is that changes in the age structure will strongly increase demands for intergenerational redistribution. What does a welfare-enhancing, equitable and sustainable generational welfare state contract look like in this context? How can the welfare state serve generational justice over time and how should different strategies in the development of social policy be evaluated? The authors reiterate their analytical framework and briefly summarize the main findings. They discuss the possibilities of establishing and sustaining a just generational welfare contract. Finally, they address ventures for further research.

Open access

The Generational Welfare Contract

Justice, Institutions and Outcomes

Simon Birnbaum, Tommy Ferrarini, Kenneth Nelson and Joakim Palme

This groundbreaking book brings together perspectives from political philosophy and comparative social policy to discuss generational justice. Contributing new insights about the preconditions for designing sustainable, inclusive policies for all of society, the authors expose the possibilities of supporting egalitarian principles in an aging society through balanced generational welfare contracts.
Open access

The generational welfare contract

Justice, Institutions and Outcomes

Simon Birnbaum, Tommy Ferrarini, Kenneth Nelson and Joakim Palme

The chapter puts forwards the hypothesis that it is possible to find positive-sum solutions for the distribution of social citizenship rights across age-related risks. Four ideal-typical generational welfare contracts are outlined. Three of those are unbalanced, where social rights are tilted in favor of one particular target group: children, working age or old age. Unbalanced generational welfare contracts favoring old age are often assumed to foment generational conflict. The fourth ideal-typical category is the balanced generational welfare contract, where the structure of social citizenship rights treats all age-related risks more equally. Balanced generational welfare contracts provide fertile conditions for the formation of common generational interests. The authors expect welfare states that respond more evenly to the needs of each age-related social risk to improve conditions for coalition building, thus providing more favorable conditions for raising the overall generosity of social protection – to the benefit of all age groups.