Generations change, but the game remains the same

I tried to ignore it, but Employment Services Minister Mark Arbib’s resurrection of the (Tony Abbott?) “job snobs” line has turned into yet another tiresome round of the generation game. This time it’s Generation Y who are copping the flak for being “Generation Lazy”, a collection of job-hoppers and dole bludgers.

How many times must these cannonballs fly? Arbib (born 1971) was barely out of nappies when the phrase “dole bludgers” was coined and applied to the unemployed members of Generation Jones (the younger boomers who missed out on the fun of the 60s), a group to which I briefly belonged. That continued right through the late 1970s, and into the recession of the early 1980s. And even before that, the older boomers had been routinely labelled as work-shy hippies.

The recession of the 1990s hit all groups of the population, with older workers suffering even more than youth. Still, the old cliches were dragged out and applied to Gen X-ers (remember the Paxtons?)

Now the economy has soured again, and Gen X bosses and pollies are kicking their Gen Y subordinates. If the slowdown drags on as long as I expect, it will be the turn of Gen Z/Millennial/Potter before long.

As I said back in 2000

Much of what passes for discussion about the merits or otherwise of particular generations is little more than a repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups Ð the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on.

You couldn’t get a better example than the latest round of recycled cliches.

89 thoughts on “Generations change, but the game remains the same

  1. Fred says “When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.”

    I’m skeptical of the idea that older people were necessarily treated better in the past. As a young boy, I recall that my father was often rude and discourteous towards old people. My father would be 63 if he was still alive today. There is good and bad in every generation.

    Indeed, if you look at current debates about things like increasing aged pensions or measures like seniors discounts and the like, it seems that society today is actually more oriented towards the needs of older people than it was in the past. I actually suspect that in the past older people were more marginalised and ignored than they are now. At least in terms of public policy.

  2. “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
    authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
    of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
    households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
    contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
    at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

  3. @ABOM
    ABOM shes trying to get closer to you – babies do that you silly man (they do seriously bring so much “joint effort” that you actually get closer – she sees your soft side and you see hers – I never really understood my partner till we had one – he was, to me, on a slightly different planet (still is in lots of ways – especially politically – and that is teeth grinding at times because of the lack of deep thought behind it – but not in the way that you love your child – that brings sympatico ABOM – is that what you call it? – am I raving at this point?)

  4. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – 30 cents for each dollar earned is JS when retirees over say 55 and under 65 to 70 arediscriminated against in the labour market. They dont get hired. They are not liked by employers no matter how able bodied and fit they are. So they earn nothing and dont even qualify for your mystical 30 cents in the dollar earned. 30 cents times nothing Terje. Are you consigning this cohort to begging on the streets. Well – more indifferent and cold your personality who could walk by them as failures, than mine Terje. I think a healthy econony can do much better than that.

  5. During the Keating recession many able-bodied males got sacked (remember the cleaning out of “middle management”?) and because of their age bracket, failed to successfully negotiate a return to the work force. Some ended up on disability pensions in order to shift them from the dole. Others ended up doing Howard’s tree-planting, after several years on the dole. Some died of their own hand.

    If we are going to have older employees we are going to have to change our attitudes towards age; dramatically change, I dare say. And we are going to need a change in attitude towards population growth. If we want to maintain the consumption lifestyle of the present then sooner or later something is going to break, economically speaking, unless we look at ways of stabilising population.

    A stabilised population with current consumption implies the need to realign our attitudes towards employment of older people – the shrinking pool of younger people will force this upon us.

    Finally, I notice one comment in an earlier post suggesting that “barren” people should be somehow treated punitively since they have made a smaller contribution to the next generation who are expected to look after the previous generation. The minor fly in the ointment on that thought is that some of us have paid humungous taxes to the government, only to see it funnelled to others as baby bonuses. Those lil’ critters have already been paid for by me, so I expect my dues come false teeth time 🙂

  6. Finally, I notice one comment in an earlier post suggesting that “barren” people should be somehow treated punitively since they have made a smaller contribution to the next generation who are expected to look after the previous generation.

    I don’t think Monkeys Uncle said anything to indicate that we should treat people punitively. He merely suggested that our current welfare system has consequences:-

    The chief flaw in existing social security systems is that everyone is able to rely on the same support from subsequent generations regardless of how much or how little one contributes towards raising those generations.

    Monkeys Uncle is simply pointing out a free rider problem. Something that is quite typical of socialist systems.

  7. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    $9000. Wow Terje.

    $20O per week rent in Sydney? – makes $10,400 a year. Shame about eating. Those aged to between 55 and 70 who cant get jobs to earn income and dont have many savings will have to give that up (eating). You cant be serious and if you are Terje – I find your view intolerant in the extreme.

  8. Alice – it is intended as supplementary income not a lifestyle option. I merely offered the case of zero income to correct your misunderstanding. And obviously you have never heard of share accomodation.

  9. Oh my goodness Terje – “its intended as a supplementary income is it Terje?”

    Thats all very well but what you a reallly saying is that you would comdemn those with no income and no savings – lets say a single Mum for example, whos husband has decamped (and is refusing to declare correctly his self employed income – a well known esacpe route) whos savings have run down and she is now attempting to get a job after many years of perhaps part time work to support her partner (lots of Mums work part time for years Terje).

    Alas – the income she earns is insufficient to carry the now greater load and her work history such that she is disgregarded by employers.

    What then Terje? 30 cents in the dollar whilst the ex is still going on overseas holidays.

    I dont like your suggestion… for the absolute simplicity of the underlying assumption that most people have positive savings. Life may not be like that Terje and as I mentioned before – you would condemn a lot more people to poverty to save taxes for those with some sort of erroneous belief that ALL people are able kicked into action by harsh deprivation. ALL is an aggregate Terje. A harsh aggregate that takes no account of individual circumstances of disaggregated groups. Furthermore what you suggest is progressive – more is given to those who earn more.

    Ewwww…this idea is very yukky Terje and it will just widen inequality and its beyond me that you can even suggest (or think that it would be good for the economy) – this suggestion is worthy of Delusion Central.

  10. Furthermore – female breaks, interruptions and career impediments during their working lives (due to reproduction) is well documented leading to lower retirement savings and lower superannuation (yet they live longer).

    Your suggested policy is also discriminatory Terje. It bears a greater burden on females as well as being regressive. OWM policy.

  11. Oh and Terje at $200 in Sydney – you are already sharing accommodation and probably sharing a room.

  12. Alice – the LDP policy has more for parents so the single mum scenario would be different. I’m happy to work through how LDP policy would compare if you want to do a proper apples for apples analysis but don’t keep changing the topic. We were previously discussing old people retiring many years after the introduction of compulsory superannuation, not single mothers.

  13. Terje
    single parents now account for 24% of all families. You may as well say they are mostly single mother families, the percentage of primary care being still in the great majority, in the hands of mothers despite JH’s foolish ideas to have kids running here and there week about so as to reduce male financial contributions to child support further (creating more hardship on single mothers).

    Child support amounts are a joke as they are so low in amounts, relative to the cost of rearing children (cost 50 odd K just by age five for one) and easily evaded and extremely difficult for those mothers to enforce evaded payments.

    These women who juggle childraising in many instances primarily on their own with work are often hampered from participating fully in the labour force (ie are marginally or casually or employed part time on lower wages so as to be able to get their kids to and from childcare – a huge expense as well).

    That doesnt help their retirement savings Terje yet they are a sizeable chunk of the population and growing if you note todays paper Terje. Thats why I raise their case. I am not going “off track” – that is a large percentage of families in this country.

    Your policy might be fine for a male with an uninteruppted career path who has accummulated a reasonable pot for retirement but its a narrow view of the world.

    These single mothers retire as well Terje (many years after the introduction of compulsory super) and even then, even then Terje – why dont you investigate what little super they have managed to build, relative to males, from a career or a succession of low paid jobs fitted around raising kids as a sole parent?.

    They were still 20% of all families in 1990 (now 24%) so quite a few of these parents will be starting to head to retirement very soon.

    Compulsory super or no compulsory super – I would suggest for many single parents (mostly women) – any super nest egg would barely last a few years.

    That means you are condemning these women to poverty of the worst order in their old age with your policy, after their children have left and after the work is done of raising them. I suppose next you will suggest that those women be paid for by their children (as 9K wont be enough to live on), whilst the ex husband who has accummulated more super, likely avoided a very large percentage of the true costs of childraising along the way even if he did pay what child support suggests he was obligated to do. He likely suffered less indignity in the labour force, trying to fit work around children’s needs, thus earned more from an uninterrupted “career” – AND now gets more than 9K from your idea of a very holey welfare net.

    Not only is your policy regressive, its constructed and predicated on the view of the typical WM uninterrupted career path (a most fortunate creature who is likely to benefit, yet again, disproportionately relative to females, from this policy). It applies this uniform policy to the aggregate when its gendered disaggregates are very very different. Therefore Terje, I find your policy ill thought out and discriminatory.

    No one is changing the topic.

  14. despite JH’s foolish ideas to have kids running here and there week about so as to reduce male financial contributions to child support further

    I don’t actually understand what this statement says so I don’t know if I disagree or agree.

    I suppose next you will suggest that those women be paid for by their children

    It is not unreasonable to expect that people should look after the interests of their elderly parents.

    why dont you investigate what little super they have managed to build

    The aged pension is $14814 per annum for a single person. So to be in a comparable financial position under 30/30 they would need about $8300 in alternate income. If they had so many children that there entire working career was disrupted then I think it is reasonable that they should look to their children for support.

    I also think you’re ignoring the dymanic effects relating to expectations.

  15. Alice
    “despite JH’s foolish ideas to have kids running here and there week about so as to reduce male financial contributions to child support further”
    “I don’t actually understand what this statement says so I don’t know if I disagree or agree.”

    JH’s deliberate policy was to encourage the ‘shared care’ concept for separated “families”.

    So single mums who are the primary care givers in a separated context were forced by changes in policy to ‘share’, on paper at least, the time but not necessarily the costs of caring for their kids with their ex partner.

    Even it it was demonstrably disruptive, even dangerous, for the kids and the mother. Please note that, its a critical but ignored element.

    The increase in time spent with the ex partner decreased the income from child support and the child maitenance disproportionately. The dad saved, the government saved.
    In that the fixed costs of child care did not change, those that do not relate to time.
    To put it numerically.
    If a child was ‘shared’ in its care with the ex-partner at 40% of the time, up from 20% of the time, then payments decreased proportionately [or worse] but no allowance was made for the fixed costs eg housing, clothing, education and health just to name 4 major aspects that impact on the costs of supporting a child. Or children.
    In fact those 4 aspects of the cost of supporting a child were not included in the calculations of child support rates that accompanied the changes to the laws.
    Deliberately so.
    The upshot of the changes in law and policy by the COALition resulted in the primary care giver [usually the mother] losing income, roughly about a third of mothers lost about a third of their income, the other parent [usually the father] paying disproportionately less in child payments therefore gaining from the change and the government saving money which was the stated reason for the change of laws.

    Please note, single mums and their kids lost income [or had no change], all other parties, single dads and the government, paid less.

    It was a major reason the COALition lost votes at the election, even George Megalogenis picked up on that to some extent.

  16. Thats also exactly why I dont support Terje’s solution for the welfare net Fred. It has yet more holes in it and lets more women fall through the cracks as if they havent already been penalised by the COALition. In JH’s world view…thats exactly where women should have been….at home lokking after the kids, then depending on kids to look after them (no matter where the negligent father went, and notwithstanding all the studies show that men do better after divorce and women worse even kif they werent derelect in their responsibilities as fathers).

    That is because a lot of the REAL costs of raising children were buckpassed by the COALITION on to women and their policies, as are Terje’s idea of a retirement safety net embedding yet another kick to women, have set women well back against any advances the long fight for equal pay and equal rights prior to the 1970s gave them. As for Prue Gowards Office for the Status of Women…under JH’s Coalition it was an Office for Women of Status. A petty little outfit to mask the genuinely misogynistic policies lurking not too far from the surface of the average liberal politician (and the air head female politicians that inhabit that party like Bishop and Bishop who have done nothing to redress it).

    Many women now realise they were stepped on by JHs Coalition – so good luck to the liberals getting their show back on the road (and the kids made to suffer this week around damage and the poverty associated with single parent families are growing up and will be voting soon). OWM party.

  17. I would just like to remind readers that I canvassed an approach to the retirement income sufficiency issue on this very blog, involving a careful phasing out of various things, for a submission to the Henry Tax Review that is now up at its site. By itself it wouldn’t cover everything needed, but I made another submission for the wider area that is canvassed here.

  18. Alice,

    The 30/30 reform would be the most efficient and equitable change to our inefficient and unfair welfare system. I support the idea but out of the options offered up, it is a fairly defensible claim.

    The problem is that it was written a long time ago. Inflation and more ad hoc changes to our tax system (now with two poverty traps net of welfare) have made a good idea obsolete. Every Government since and including Whitlam has complicated the situation further.

    A reform having a NIT is a good idea. The 30/30 was quite a good policies but the parameters (tax, price levels) have moved us on. Moving towards an NIT isn’t perfect either since it unfortunately would still have a lot of churn and inefficient undeserving , although eliminating a lot of it. $9000 in 2001 was probably worth about the same as the dole is now if you factor in inflation. The LDP also wanted general tax cuts and wanted more responsible welfare to supplement caring for children etc. Terje or John Humphreys can probably explain it better.

    You could simply adjust this with a basic income for anyone earning a negative income tax. The crux is that a NIT or a basic income and consumption tax is better than the dog’s breakfast we have in taxation and welfare (the disincentives and unfairness of a phased welfare system and income tax system with the problems noted before should at least arouse informed commentators that the system at least needs changes – perhaps as minimal as raising the TFT to be above the maximum “dole” payment).

    The 30/30 isn’t perfect but you should be more generous in considering it’s formation and the validity of similar ideas and the severe problems the current tax and welfare systems have.

  19. “August 1st, 2009 at 12:40 | #16
    Reply | Quote

    Oh and Terje at $200 in Sydney – you are already sharing accommodation and probably sharing a room.”

    This doesn’t necessarily reflect poverty or parsimony, but the reality of a poor economic policy relating to the artificial scarcity of dwellings in Australia.

  20. Mark – for mostly political reasons my transition preference these days (ie before the shift to libertarian utopia) is for:-

    1. No company or personal income tax or payroll tax.
    2. A potentially beefed up GST.
    3. No state or federal wage regulation (I’ll tolerate a local government minimum wage).
    4. A government funded social wage that most people could house and feed themselves on if they hit tough times without having to move more than 50km.

    Phasing out income tax without any serious increase in the GST would be quite achievable over a 10-20 year time frame if average economic growth is maintained and government spending in real per capita terms was capped. Personally I’d just make the switch with a higher GST and then whittle down that tax over time. Techically it is all quite achievable without much pain. It is the politics of such dramatic reform that is as tough as nails.

  21. “TerjeP (say tay-a), a flat tax is discriminatory.”


    Do you mean regressive? That would be incorrect, nevertheless.

    Can you come up with a tax that doesn’t discriminate at all, in any way?

    It is also fairly obvious that anyone not participating in the black economy will be unfairly discriminated against.

    Terje BTW is referring to a linear tax.

  22. Mark Hill, one only needs to read up on the introduction of ie the VAT and how it benefitted higher income earners at the expense of those less well off.

  23. Please refer me to something I should read.

    The GST exemptions for example favour the wealthy in terms of what they spend in proportion on those items relative to their incomes.

    Welfare recipients can be helped by an adjustment of the NIT or basic income rate – but what actually matters is what the total tax rate is and how that affects their disposable income. Having a more efficient tax system could give them higher disposable incomes, before increased growth occurs.

  24. @Mark Hill

    “Moving towards an NIT [Negative Income Tax] isn’t perfect either since it unfortunately would still have a lot of churn and inefficient undeserving , although eliminating a lot of it”.

    Those features are engineered out in the approach I suggested in the Henry Tax Review submission I mentioned above (the later one, not the retirement income one). That is effectively a Negative Payroll Tax. The same engineering out also delivers faster results and no funding problems during any delays that might arise from other causes.

  25. Struth Mark Hill, my papers are packed away but if my recollection is correct studies conducted in early 1980s showed the introduction of the VAT coupled with a decrease in corporate and top personal income taxes benefitted high income earners by as much as $100 a week. Maybe John can direct you to some of the early papers.

  26. Listen Terje and others – I was talking to a working MUM tonight (married). Do you people have any idea at all about what childcare costs???? Well – Ill tell you. Not an upmarket childcare centre – just an average run of the mill centre at Ryde (not even at Macquarie uni where she works because she finds that too expensive)

    Get this – one set of twins about a year and a half old and one 3 year old.

    $90 per day for EACH twin and $70 a day for the 3 year old. This woman works to barely break even after childcare costs of $250 per day. Thats $1250 per week. Thats in excess of 50K per year.

    How on earth do single mothers cope??/ How???

    You want them to work and save a nest egg for retirement Terje – (you libertarians) so they can pay for their own retirement (while you pay less taxes).

    Tell me how they do it Terje because I am at a complete loss. So all your one rule fits all linear taxes or flat taxes or combos dont sit well with me.

    Discriminatory and nothing less. Something HAS to be done about childcare costs if you expect people (women especially) to fund their own retirements.
    This lovely modelled one rule for all damn well doesnt work. You need to have a good look at what you are doing – you can scream all you like about people paying their own way, but look at why they cant? Thats off the radar isnt it.

    Childcare – provide it if you want women to fund their own retirements in the libertarian small government small tax view!!
    (oh the stupidity and blindness of men – its enough to give me indigestion..!)

  27. Alice, there is so much pain there that I do not see how to get past that without inadvertently touching a sore point. But I’ll try.

    There isn’t anything that can be done that would actually help with child care costs, while families and work places are structured as they are. That’s because there is too much need chasing too few resources – I won’t put supply and demand because I’m also talking about needs that people can’t pay for, etc. The only way out involves taking away some of the need, i.e. arranging for many families to be able to look after their own needs. I am not talking about pushing women out of the work force and back into the home, but about taking the strain off those who want to stay in the work force by helping those who want to get out of it, because that would reduce the load on available child care resources. If it can’t be done, it can’t be done – but adding funds to the existing set up just wouldn’t cut it.

    As for women not saving enough to retire on, it’s part of a wider problem for people generally, one of getting rid of barriers to employment. Solving that would help women just as it would others, whether directly by offering work or indirectly by putting more income into families. Again, this does not involve getting women who want to work to stop, only raising general levels of adequacy so that resources go to individuals through families and vice versa, with people who want to do it one way taking the load off those who prefer the other way. Behind it all, there is a need to fix the structural problems of the economy, and focussing on women’s needs would leave those in full force. It’s not dismissive of women’s needs to turn away from those and address the other stuff, because it’s the other stuff that’s causing the immediate problems and just addressing those would achieve nothing.

  28. Alice I have three young kids so I know the price of child care. And when the kids were younger we lived in Ryde so I probably even know the child care centre in question.

    There are several things driving up the cost of childcare.

    1. Industry regulation. There is this constant push to enforce higher qualifications for childcare workers (and hence higher labour costs).

    2. Childcare rebates.

    The childcare centre we used in Ryde was always asking us to sign petitions pleading for parents to be given more government rebates. I tried to be polite about it but I wasn’t going to feed the problem.

    The mum you refer to is married and is close to break even on the deal. In fact after tax she is possibly even losing money. Ditch the rebate and she or her husband might finally smell the roses, and one of them stay home and look after the kids themselves (nice for the kids). This would immediately open up space for others and at the margin it would reduce the price pressure on childcare places.

    When the kids were younger I looked at our tax situation and figured my effective marginal tax rate was about 85% due to income tax and the phase out of family tax benefits. So I went back to a four day week and looked after the kids one day a week.

    Of course we could alter the economics and continue to keep high skilled mums (and dads) in the work force by cutting tax rates. But we have this weird idea that society benefits when already scarce skills are more highly taxed. So all up comparatively unskilled childcare workers without the right bits of paper are now unemployed or working at Coles in jobs they hate whilst overtaxed high skilled mums and dads can’t find affordable childcare and stay at home instead.
    Welcome to your socialist paradise.

  29. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – when my boy was young he went to community childcare and it was $12 a day.
    Childcare should not be in private hands. Sweden provides very effective “socialised” (try not to shudder Terje) childcare and they have a very low rate of single mums on welfare and A very high rate of participation in the labour force for the same, relative to us (is Australia a misogynistric society – Im beginning to wonder). Your view is ideologically biased and now you are blaming the failures of childcare on inadequate deregulation, when in fact it is privatisation (Eddy and other subsidy bounty hunters from the private sector) that is the underlying problem here.

    You cant kick and penalise people like single mums to go to work Terje when it itsnt worth their while to do so and ultimate poverty only creates more problems. Go look at Swedens progress in this area and stop making excuses for a system that is failing mothers and creating more welfare, not less. In fact the childcare system is stuffed (pardon the expression but there is no other word for it) – and it would be cheaper to provide public childcare when netted out against welfare costs I would suggest.

    No point in maintaining a bias to private sector operation of childcare centres if it means we save two cents on running centres, and end up paying more for welfare for these mums whilst ordinary married mums and dads are also forking out much much more as well (and now they charge for everything – food, nappies, you name it – its all plus plus).

    Its a complete rip off and a disaster for all families, not just single mums.

  30. @P.M.Lawrence
    PM – if we want to reduce welfare costs I would suggest the outrageous cost of childcare is the single largest barrier to increased labour force participation. For a single parent with two or three children under school age – or lets say even with one child under school age – (childcare still amounts to about 25K a year) – that precludes them taking jobs under 40-50K almost. That is insanity. That is well above the true average wage of 27K. Cant you see that? Obtaining a job worth more so that they can clear the cost and provide for their families may actually be impossible for many of these parents. They would need at least another 20K on top and that wont go far with a few kids and paying rent. Thats still poverty in my book.

  31. Alice, I do see that. I merely point out that no action simply directed at the cost of child care or at parents’ financial means of paying it can help – because it would simply make the horizon recede by bidding prices up enough to claw back any gains. The only way to address the issue is to turn away from it and reduce the number of people needing it.

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