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Germany's social policy challenge: public integenerational transfers in light of demographic change

Wilkoszewski, Harald (2011) Germany's social policy challenge: public integenerational transfers in light of demographic change. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This dissertation addresses the question of to what extent growing numbers of older people who might have similar preferences regarding public intergenerational transfers (family and pension policies) will limit the scope of future social policy reforms in Germany. We are interested in to what extent the shift in the country's demography will trigger a so-called "gerontocracy." As a theoretical framework, we combine Mannheim's concept of political generations with a demographic life-course approach. According to Mannheim, growing numbers of a societal group, combine with unified preferences within the group, enhance the group's political power. To empirically test this hypothesis, we use three analytical steps: First, we analyse the future age composition of the German population, including familial characteristics, using a micro-simulation approach. The results suggest that the number of older people will grow substantially over the coming decades, particularly the share of older people who will remain childless and who will not be married. Second, we analyse preferences regarding redistributive social policies according to age, parity, and marital status, based on recent survey data. Generalised Linear Models and Generalised Additive Models are applied to examine what the effects of fdemographic indicators are on these preferences. Results show that older people are less in favour of transfers ot the younger generation than their younger counterparts. This is particularly true of childless interviewees. Third, we explore the extent to which these developments are likely to have an impact on the political sphere. How do policy makers perceive ageing and the preferences structures found? How do elderly interest groups define their roles in light of these results? In-depth interviews with these stakeholders provide a mixed picture: whereas most interviewees are convinced that older people have gained more power due to their bigger population share, there is little awareness of differences in policy preferences between various demographic groups. The biggest challenge for social policy makers is, therefore, to find ways to mediate between these two interesrs. if they fail to do so, a conflict of generations might become a realistic scenario for Germany.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Harald Wilkoszewski
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Murphy, Michael J. and Sigle-Rushton, Wendy and Vaupel, James W.

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