Facing Demographic Challenges in East and West: Employing the Concept of Social Generations

Forced by an ageing population, changing horizons of cultural references and decreasing trust in future welfare rights new strata of cultural, political and social identities are emerging. These new strata are based on the shared political, cultural, economic and social pressures and experiences of each generation, giving rise to the Social Generation as a new centre of identification. The basic hypothesis of this project is that the rise of social generations as categories of meaning, identification and centre of alliances and antagonisms will be one of the defining characteristics in the coming years. What is suggested is that the concept of social generation is added on to the list of traditionally important concepts of class, gender and ethnicity. It is not suggested that generation should substitute for these classical concepts; rather they should be supplemented by it. This will be explored empirically through a comparison of the distribution of elderly care in East Asia and Scandinavia by focusing on what is the distribution of care for the elderly among state, market and civil society (families and NGOs) with a view to generations? In a Chinese context this is investigating the consequences of the family planning policy inaugurated in 1979 which has now resulted in the so-called 4-2-1 family structure. When the only child was small he or she had four grandparents and two parents to care for it, but 30 years later one grown up now has to care for four potentially frail grandparents. In a Scandinavian context a much more institutionalized approach has developed, relying heavily on public locally organized welfare provisions. Yet in both cases intergenerational exchanges of material and care resources are involved, but in China they predominantly go from the younger to the older generations, while the opposite is true in Europe. The paper only deals with the methodological issues relating to this study and tries to solve the issue related to comparing a cluster of small states to a cluster of big states.

Full paper download: 2.1.2 Peter Abrahamson.pdf