Austria ‘must do more for younger generations’

Austria 'must do more for younger generations'
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Austria needs to develop a more age group-balanced welfare state by adjusting pension systems to rising life expectancy and investing more in the younger generation, according to an analysis by Pieter Vanhuysse, Professor for Comparative Welfare State Research at the University of Southern Denmark.

Writing for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Vanhuysse says that according to his Intergenerational Justice Index IJI, Austria ranks tenth-worst in the 29-country sample when it comes to ecological footprint.

This is a measure of the total pressure put on the environment by all generations alive today and left for the next generations to tackle.

Austria also does badly on the fiscal burden, or proportion of central government debt weighing on the shoulders of each child aged 0–14 (Estonia and South Korea perform best in this category).

On the other hand, young children in Austria are comparatively well off  when it comes to child poverty levels. Austria ranks sixth-best in the sample, just behind the Nordic countries.

Austria also has the highest level of young adults in employment, education and training in Europe (only seven percent of 15–24 year olds are not in employment, education and training). Vanhuysse says this is down to Austria’s modern system of vocational education.

However, Austria spends significantly more on the elderly than on the young. Recent OECD data shows that Austria has the ninth-highest pro-elderly spending ratio in the sample – the state spent about five times as much for each elderly Austrian as it spent for each non-elderly Austrian around the start of this decade.

Austria has high levels of early and disability retirement and there has been resistance within the government to reforming the pension system in line with fast-rising life expectancy.

Vanhuysse concludes that unless countries which have low intergenerational justice (the USA, Japan, Italy and Greece all score badly) can guarantee fast and sustainable productivity growth in the near future, young and future generations will be given a bad deal.

And although Austria performs well in terms of child poverty and youth unemployment he says it must “reduce ecological footprints” and develop “a more age group-balanced welfare state” to ensure younger generations have a bright future.

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