Standard for inter-generational justice sought

According to a study by the Bertelsmann foundation, if the rate of child poverty in a country lies above the rate of poverty among the elderly, this is an indicator of inter-generational injustice. It also indicates a higher consumption of living resources at the expense of the next generation. Both indicators, along with the national debt per child, were investigated by the foundation in 29 OECD countries.


Aart De Geus, Chairman of the Bertelsmann Foundation, explained all on 4.11.2013 when presenting the study on inter-generational justice: "The Bertelsmann Foundation has expressed in figures something that has been talked about for a long time: In numerous OECD countries, future generations are facing a future that is characterized by debt, poverty and ecological crisis."

According to the study, child poverty brings with it reduced educational, employment and income opportunities. The lowest child poverty levels are found in the Northern European countries, at 3.7 to 7 percent. By contrast, child poverty levels are the highest in the Southern European countries of Portugal, Spain and Italy, as well as in the USA. There 21 percent of children lived in poverty. If one compares the values for child poverty with those for poverty among the elderly, developing changes across the generations become apparent. Here the Netherlands has the greatest disparity within the OECD area. There poverty among the elderly lies at 1.7 percent, while child poverty simultaneously lies at around 9.6 percent.

The possible consumption of natural resources, sustained beyond the medium-term, also acts as a burden on the next generation. Here the study defines a so-called ecological footprint of 1.8 hectares per person as the upper limit for fair inter-generational behavior, on a global scale. In the future comparison, Germany comes out at 4.6 hectares per person. The consumption of resources per capita in the USA lies much higher at 7.2 hectares, exceeded only by front-runners Denmark with 8.3 hectares per person.

For the authors of the "Inter-generational justice in aging societies – an OECD country comparison" study, state debt calculated on a per-child basis is also an indicator of the strain placed on the next generation. At 4,600 Euro per child under 15 years of age, debts in Estonia are currently low, while the debt per child in Germany at the end of 2011 was 192,000 Euro. While the corresponding debt per child in Italy or Greece lies only slightly above that of the Germans, Japan has the highest at 571,000 Euro.

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