As a 70-year-old baby boomer I read and learned from Phillip Inman’s article (Battle lines are drawn between young and old, 26 February). As usual, though, there is no comparison made between the life circumstances experienced during the youthful years of baby boomers and those of today’s young people.
Most of us grew up without central heating; icy bathrooms, phoning from the only phone in a freezing hall, doing homework next to a single-bar electric fire. Holiday accommodation – rarely, if ever, abroad – consisted of youth hostels or tents. Car ownership tended to be limited to enthusiasts with car maintenance skills. The purchase of clothing was a treat and TV was a four-channel affair without remote control. Sex was difficult to come by as getting together under parents’ roofs was out of the question. The age of majority was 21 so even the lucky 2-3% who went to university were in gender-separated halls or digs where landladies were in loco parentis. Late buses took us home from evening social events. Birthday celebrations would be held at home to the record player. I was lucky to own a bicycle but no helmet. Deaths on the roads were horrifyingly high as seatbelts were unknown. Cancer meant automatic death.
Do our relatively deprived youths give us any rights to a moderately comfortable old age?
• Phillip Inman writes that “baby boomers have proved themselves adept at ensuring they are the winners across many areas of public policy”. The vast majority of baby boomers have done no such thing, having no access to the levers of power. Vast numbers of baby boomers, outside the professions and outside the media/Westminster bubble, never had final salary pensions in the first place. This birth cohort does not form a unitary category, but contains great inequalities and many subdivisions.
Those who do have final salary pensions have mostly not been scheming in the way suggested, but quietly getting on with their lives, supporting their children and grandchildren, while successive governments of all stripes have attempted to secure their votes with financial bribes. Many have refused to be bribed. The financial chasm between the generations is real, but I would hope to see a more nuanced discussion of it in this paper.
• It is not true that public sector pension schemes are generating “a huge bill in store for younger people in 30 or 40 years’ time”. The latest projections from the Office for Budget Responsibility show that the cost of the main public sector pension schemes is estimated to fall significantly; from about 2% of GDP today to 1.5% in about 30 years’ time and 1.4% in about 40. Far from being a potential source of intergenerational conflict, the fact that these schemes are financially sustainable while also remaining open to young workers shows they are a beacon of intergenerational solidarity.
Pension officer, Prospect trade union
• Join the debate – email [email protected]
• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters