Young millennials short-changed by the state, says ex-government minister

November 5, 2019 12:01:00 AM

Young millennials are being “short-changed” by the state, according to a former Conservative minister.

Lord David Willetts, who was previously Minister for Universities and Science, said the upcoming General Election should be used to start healing divides between the generations rather than making them worse.

He argued that young people have been “short-changed by a lack of decent pay growth, a lack of decent, affordable homes, and a state that expects them to pay more in order to receive less”.

Lord Willetts is now president at think-tank the Resolution Foundation, which is focused on improving the living standards for those on low to middle incomes.

Lord David Willetts
Former Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said political parties should try to heal generational divides (David Cheskin/PA)

He argued that the main political parties risk entrenching generational divides by appealing to their age-specific core bases in the upcoming General Election.

Analysis of generational gaps is contained in an updated version of his book called The Pinch, which was first published ahead of the 2010 election.

It looked at the “welfare dividend” that different generations receive over the course of their lives by receiving more support from the welfare state, on average, than they have paid in taxes.

Baby boomers born in the mid-1950s, such as Lord Willetts, are set for a welfare dividend of £291,000 over the course of their lives, the research found.

By contrast, young millennials born in 1996 are set to receive a far smaller dividend of £132,000 typically, according to the analysis.

Lord Willetts argued that too often politicians have exacerbated age divides in the labour and housing markets by tilting the state ever further towards older generations.

He said age is becoming the dominant divide in elections.

In the 2017 general election, 30-year-olds were twice as likely to back Labour over the Conservatives, while 70-year-olds were twice as likely to vote the opposite way.

Lord Willetts said: “When I first wrote The Pinch 10 years ago, I wanted to sound a warning siren that huge intergenerational injustices were opening up across Britain, and that young people were losing out while my generation was doing well.

“Ten years on, those divides have got worse.”

He continued: “Britain’s generational divides are affecting our living standards, and how we vote.

“Our political parties should use the upcoming election to start healing these divides with a policy programme that appeals to and benefits young and old alike.”