Citizens' Perceptions of Intergenerational Relationships and the Role of the State in Aging Democracies: Some Preliminary Evidence from Germany
18 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2009
Date Written: June 23, 2009
Starting from the observations that the German government has to take important decisions with generational implications in the context of an ageing society (and currently one of economic crisis), this paper analyses citizens’ perceptions of intergenerational relationships and of the role of the German state therein. Drawing on original evidence from 12 focus groups led between January and June 2009 in Cologne, the following questions are explored: what do citizens think about intergenerational solidarity and the role of the state therein? What are implications for a modern democracy like Germany? The results are: (1) participants desired the abstract principle of generational equity, i.e. the same amount of opportunities for all cohorts, but some were also aware of its unattainable nature; (2) participants of some more recent birth years were aware of their double burden in changing welfare state arrangement and expressed a lack of willingness to support the underlying structures; (3) the level of solidarity was challenged by resorting to social constructions of categories (certain age boundaries or retirement) that warrant medical treatment; (4) the futurity problem, i.e. democratically legitimised decisions today have implications for future populations, has a clear micro foundation with many participants putting the interests of future cohort and family generations second to their own current interests, a finding that sharply contrasts with their generally expressed support of generational equity.
Keywords: ageing democracies, expectations, citizens, generational equity
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