Intergenerational Solidarity:Values and Beliefs

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Which beliefs exist on the obligations of the younger to the older generations

when the latter are in need of care and help? The Euro-barometer

surveys on public beliefs about elderly people provide a good international

overview (Walker 1996). One question posed in these surveys concerns

the extent to which one agrees with the statement that working

people are obliged to contribute to a decent living standard for elderly

people by means of paying taxes or other financial contributions.Walker

(1996), who interprets the answers to these questions in terms of solidarity,

concludes that there is a remarkably high level of solidarity; a strong

agreement with the statement is found among 60.1%of the Danes, 45.9%

of the British, 45.7% of the Spanish, 42.4% of the Dutch, 41.2% of the

Portuguese, and 40.7% of the Irish. Somewhat lower percentages are

table 7.1. Beliefs about Solidarity of the Young with the Aged, 1997

(% agreeing)

18–44 45–64 65–79

If the costs of retirement pensions rise, older people

should pay more taxes. 17 20 20

If the costs of the health care system keep rising, older

people should pay their own contribution. 66 49 40

If insufficient jobs are available, older and younger

people are equally entitled to have one. 81 77 72

If the number of older people requiring help increases,

particularly the young should provide more care. 59 56 67

Source: Dykstra(1998).

found in Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany, with the

lowest percentage of 25.9% found in France (Walker 1996).

In the Netherlands the Dutch Demographical Institute (NIDI) has

investigated beliefs about assistance for elderly people requiring care

(Dykstra 1998). A large majority, 93%, thinks that the government has the

prime responsibility when caring provisions for elderly people in need

of physical or financial assistance are concerned. Another 65% a re of the

opinion that aged people should, in the first place, appeal to the government

when they need care and only afterward ask their children for help

if necessary. Table 7.1 presents an overview of beliefs about solidarity of

the young for the aged.

A minority of both the younger (17%) and the older age groups thinks

that in case of rising costs of the pension system, the elderly should start

paying more taxes. However, younger people do think that the elderly

should assume some financial responsibility for the rising costs of the

health care system. When asked for their opinion about being entitled

to a job in times of economic scarcity, more of the younger than of the

older age group think that both young and old are asmuch entitled. Also

a relatively large number of young people, 59%, are willing to assume

some responsibility for elderly people requiring care.