Boomers not the luckiest generation?

An article from Australia (Sydney Morning Herald. December 27~28) contends that the best time to have been born was between 1920 and 1930.

 

If you were born in the 1930’s :

  • You would have experienced the Great Depression only as a child
  • You would have had plenty of exercise so no problem of childhood obesity (although as you grew older the chances of being a smoker were much higher than now).
  • At least half of your life would have been spent in the long post-war economic boom, a time of optimism, technological and housing improvements and full employment.
  • You would not have served in WW2 nor, like some people in the 40’s and 50’s, in Korea or Vietnam.
  • Women would have much more chance than their daughters to do interesting, paid work but would have much less need to do so (in relation to HH income, Sydney houses are three times more expensive now than they were in the 1960’s.
  • Not having to go out to work to pay the mortgage meant mothers had much more time to spend with their children, and family life in the 60’s and 70’s was often more relaxed than it is today.
  • You would have had a more stable family life. The divorce rate increased in the mid 70’s when crime, single parenthood and chronic forms of mental and physical illness started to bloom.
  • You would have had less need for state welfare. In the ’60’s only 3% of working age Australians depended on welfare which has since risen to about 16%.
  • You would have paid lower taxes. In the 1950’s a couple with two children paid no taxes at all when welfare was taken into account. By 1990 a father in the same situation paid 9 times more tax than in the 1950’s. In the 1980’s the top marginal rate of tax dropped from 65 cents or more, to 49 cents, benefitting higher earners, mainly men older than 40.
  • You would enjoy a more generous pension as many retirees received pensions no longer affordable by employers.
  • You would enjoy more government assistance in ageing as the amount of assistance to the aged rose by 161% compared to 87% rise on overall government spending.
  • You would now benefit from cheap pharmaceuticals and (in NSW) free motor vehicle registration because of a more generous ‘means test’.
  • You would have studied for free at university in the early 1970’s but then withdrawn in the 1980’s by which time most of the ‘lucky generation’ had graduated.
  • You would have inherited a fine infrastructure of railways, bridges and dams from your elders but built comparatively little.
  • Your calmer and more stable families enabled you to learn core values including loyalty, saving, the work ethic, the sense of mutual obligation and patriotism. The inculcation of these values has, some say, prepared you better than future generations, to ‘keep their heads’ as material prosperity increased.
  • You were taught to expect the worst, and were often pleasantly surprised by the way things turned out. 

In more recent decades we have faced increases in divorce rates, materialism and job insecurity. Some say the loss of religion has also lead to loss of values and less happiness. There has also been a sharp increase in fear. 

 

New Zealand historian David Thompson said “To be born in the 1920’s and 1930’s is to be protected (by government policy); the later one is born, the more expendable one becomes”. He was concerned that the future of the welfare state might be at risk, because its favouring of one generation would eventually lead to resentment from subsequent ones.

 

This possibility was postponed in Australia by the long economic boom around that time. It will be interesting to see if the current darker economic times will give rise to greater resentment between Australia’s generations, as the contrast in their quality of lives becomes increasingly stark in the years to come.