chapter  4
19 Pages

Wealth distribution between generations

A source of conflict or cohesion?
ByLars Gulbrandsen, Åsmund Langsether

During the past two decades, young adults in ‘the establishment phase’ (i.e. when they are normally undergoing higher education, acquiring their first home and starting a family) in many countries have experienced both growing unemployment and high ‘admission prices’ to the housing market, whereas old and middle-aged people at the same time have enjoyed the results of good economic conditions and a favourable economic and housing policy. Based on these disparities between age groups in contemporary society, theories have been put forward which suggest that these inequalities provide fertile ground for conflicts between the generations. It is likely that some of the much-used epithets in Norway, such as ‘hard-working generation’, ‘the well-off 50-year-olds’ and the less fortunate ‘left to do the dishwashing generation’, are motivated more by a desire to focus on differences than on actual conflicts over distributional policies between age groups. Age is an important distribution criterion in the modern welfare state since it is the criterion that distinguishes the occupationally active and ‘providing’ section of the population from the ‘provided for’ sections. Arguably the most important aspect of the modern welfare state is the construction of a public support system for elderly people.