The European Intergenerational
Fairness Index 2016
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About this tool

Is the European Union failing its young? That is the question raised in the European Intergenerational Fairness Index, produced by UK-based charitable think tank, the Intergenerational Foundation.

The European Intergenerational Fairness Index (IF EU Index 2016) paints an increasingly bleak picture of the prospects of the young across Europe, with their plight deteriorating to a 10-year low in the last year recorded. You can read the full report here.

Youth poverty has increased, youth unemployment is chronic in many countries, the pay gap between the young and the population average is widening, while the cost of housing for the young is rising relentlessly.

And this is at a time when many countries continue to struggle from the fallout of the global financial crisis, with national debt spiralling ever upwards, and increasing strain placed on welfare systems.

Add to this the sudden, though welcome, increase in lifespans seen by many across Europe and there appears to be an emerging intergenerational crisis unfolding as states endeavour to maintain health and pension spending on the old, while stalling in their investment in the young. But, the young cannot carry the burden of an ageing population without themselves having decent jobs, wages and fair living standards.

This research suggests that EU governments and the European Commission should explicitly assess all policies for their impact on younger and future citizens. In particular, the EU should adhere more strictly to the debt-to-GDP levels laid out in the Stability and Growth Pact, should raise retirement ages more rapidly and should invest more in education. EU countries are all suffering from low democratic participation by their young people, but young people across Europe know that their interests are too often sacrificed to those of the older generations.

The Index is the culmination of more than two years of research. This could not have been achieved without the help of Jeremy Leach, independent researcher, and researchers from Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford.

We would also like to thank the Open Society Foundations for its invaluable financial support that has allowed the creation of this interactive tool, which was built by Kiln.

IF is a non-party-political vehemently independent charitable think tank based in London. IF researches fairness between generations and questions whether the current intergenerational compact is fair to all: the old, the young and those to come. Our research and education work covers housing, health, education, employment, taxation, pensions, wealth transfers, and the environment.

For further information on the work of IF, or for media enquiries, please contact Liz Emerson, IF Co-Founder. Email: liz@if.org.uk; mobile: 0044 (0) 7971 228823.

Austria EU Accession: 1995

Highlights

  • Ranked fourth best EU member for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Second-lowest youth unemployment;
  • High investment in R&D over past decade;
  • Young have higher median incomes than population average.

Areas of concern

  • Young people face high housing costs;
  • High spending on pensions.

Belgium EU Accession: 1958

Highlights

  • Ranked eighth best EU member for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Only EU member where young people are more likely than average to participate in elections;
  • Strong investment in education and high tertiary participation.

Areas of concern

  • High old-age burden on health system;
  • High youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • Sixth-highest government debt in EU.

Bulgaria EU Accession: 2007

Highlights

  • Young have higher median incomes than population average;
  • Low government debt;
  • Low youth-to-adult poverty ratio.

Areas of concern

  • Second-lowest education spending and low tertiary education enrolment;
  • Fourth-lowest R&D investment;
  • High dependency ratio.

Croatia EU Accession: 2013

Highlights

  • Doubling of tertiary education enrolment since 2002;
  • Rising investment in education.

Areas of concern

  • Large quantity of missing data;
  • Rapid rise in government debt;
  • Third worst score for youth unemployment;
  • Falling investment in R&D.

Cyprus EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Significant reduction in GHG emissions;
  • Third-lowest old-age dependency ratio and low spending on pensions;
  • Highest level of tertiary education attainment in EU.

Areas of concern

  • Fourth-worst country for intergenerational unfairness overall;
  • Fifth-highest government debt;
  • Second-lowest investment in R&D;
  • High youth-to-adult unemployment ratio.

Czech Republic EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Ranked fifth best EU member for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • High investment in R&D;
  • Low government debt.

Areas of concern

  • Fourth-highest per capita GHG emissions;
  • Low investment in education and low tertiary education attainment (although improving).

Denmark EU Accession: 1973

Highlights

  • Large fall in per capita GHG emissions since 1990;
  • High investment in R&D (above Europe 2020 target);
  • Highest education investment in EU.

Areas of concern

  • High old-age dependency ratio, with rising spending on pensions and burden of ageing on healthcare system;
  • Young people facing significantly lower median incomes, higher housing costs and higher poverty risk than population average.

Estonia EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Second-highest overall score for intergenerational fairness;
  • Lowest government debt of any EU country;
  • Third-lowest pension costs;
  • Low youth unemployment;
  • Rising investment in R&D.

Areas of concern

  • Second-highest per capita GHG emissions;
  • Fourth-worst young-to-old democratic participation ratio.

Finland EU Accession: 1995

Highlights

  • Highest investment in R&D;
  • High spending on education.

Areas of concern

  • Rising government debt;
  • Rapid population ageing: worsening dependency ratio, spending on pensions and burden of ageing on healthcare;
  • Young people face disproportionately low incomes, high housing costs and high risk of living in poverty.

France EU Accession: 1958

Highlights

  • Low per capita GHG emissions;
  • Eighth highest spending on R&D;
  • High tertiary education attainment.

Areas of concern

  • Young people are much likelier than the population average to face high housing costs and live in poverty;
  • Highest spending on pensions of any EU member.

Germany EU Accession: 1958

Highlights

  • Seventh-best score overall for intergenerational fairness;
  • Lowest youth unemployment in EU;
  • High investment in R&D.

Areas of concern

  • Worsening old-age dependency ratio;
  • Fifth-highest per capita GHG emissions.

Greece EU Accession: 1981

Highlights

  • Above-average tertiary education attainment.

Areas of concern

  • Worst overall performer for intergenerational fairness;
  • Highest government debt;
  • Second-highest old age dependency ratio and expenditure on pensions;
  • Second-highest youth unemployment;
  • High risk of young people living in poverty;
  • Low investment in R&D and education.

Hungary EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Fifth-lowest per capita GHG emissions following rapid reductions;
  • Rapid growth in spending on R&D.

Areas of concern

  • Low youth-to-adult earnings ratio;
  • Disproportionate risk of young people living in poverty;
  • Falling investment in education during the past decade;
  • Worsening dependency ratio and rising pension costs and burden of ageing on healthcare.

Ireland EU Accession: 1973

Highlights

  • Low old-age dependency ratio and spending on pensions;
  • High investment in education and tertiary education attainment;
  • Significant declines in per capita GHG emissions.

Areas of concern

  • Ninth-worst country for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Fourth-highest government debt, following fivefold increase between 2006 and 2013;
  • High youth-to-adult unemployment ratio and low youth-to-adult earnings ratio;
  • High risk of young people living in poverty;
  • Second-lowest democratic participation ratio.

Italy EU Accession: 1958

Highlights

  • Low housing costs for young people;
  • High democratic participation by young people.

Areas of concern

  • Second-worst country for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Second-highest government debt;
  • Highest old-age dependency ratio and high ageing-related public expenditure;
  • Youth unemployment double EU average and very high youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • Low spending on education, tertiary attainment and R&D investment.

Latvia EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Low government debt;
  • Best youth-to-adult income ratio;
  • Lowest GHG emissions of any EU country although currently rising).

Areas of concern

  • Worsening old-age dependency ratio;
  • Third-lowest investment in R&D.

Lithuania EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Third-best country for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Low government debt;
  • Third-highest tertiary education attainment.

Areas of concern

  • Worsening dependency ratio and rising ageing-related public spending;
  • Recent increases in per capita GHG emissions.

Luxembourg EU Accession: 1958

Highlights

  • Second-lowest government debt of any EU state;
  • Lowest spending on pensions;
  • Low old-age dependency ratio;
  • Second-highest tertiary education attainment.

Areas of concern

  • Worst youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • Low investment in R&D;
  • Worst per capita GHG emissions.

Malta EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Sixth-highest score for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Third-lowest youth unemployment ratio;
  • High youth-to-adult poverty ratio and low youth-to-adult income ratio;
  • Second-highest spending on education.

Areas of concern

  • Low tertiary education attainment and investment in R&D;
  • Fastest-rising dependency ratio.

Netherlands EU Accession: 1958

Highlights

  • Low youth unemployment and third-best youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • High spending on education and tertiary education attainment.

Areas of concern

  • Third-highest youth-to-adult poverty ratio and high housing overburden ratio;
  • High spending on pensions and burden of ageing on healthcare.

Poland EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Increasing tertiary education attainment;
  • Low government debt.

Areas of concern

  • High youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • Rising dependency ratio and increasing ageing-related spending;
  • No reduction in per capita GHG emissions since 2000;
  • Low investment in R&D.

Portugal EU Accession: 1986

Highlights

  • Low GHG emissions;
  • High democratic participation among young people.

Areas of concern

  • Sixth-worst country for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Third-highest government debt;
  • Fifth highest old-age dependency ratio and high ageing-related public expenditure;
  • High youth unemployment and sixth-worst youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • High youth-to-adult income ratio and high risk of poverty among young people.

Romania EU Accession: 2007

Highlights

  • Low GHG emissions;
  • Current low old-age dependency ratio and ageing-related public expenditure (although rising);
  • Low government debt (although rising).

Areas of concern

  • Third-worst country for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • High youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • High youth-to-adult income ratio and risk of young people living in poverty.
  • Lowest spending on education and R&D investment;
  • Second-lowest tertiary education attainment.

Slovakia EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Young people less likely than the population average to suffer housing overburden;
  • Most favourable dependency ratio in the EU and low ageing-related public spending.

Areas of concern

  • Third-lowest investment in education and fourth-lowest tertiary education attainment;
  • Seventh-highest youth unemployment and high youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • Recent reductions in per capita GHG emissions.

Slovenia EU Accession: 2004

Highlights

  • Highest-scoring country overall for intergenerational fairness;
  • Low housing cost overburden ratio and low risk of young people living in poverty;
  • Favourable dependency ratio and low ageing-related public spending;
  • Rapid improvement in tertiary education attainment;
  • High investment in education and R&D.

Areas of concern

  • Relatively high GHG emissions.

Spain EU Accession: 1986

Highlights

  • Large reduction in GHG emissions;
  • Above-average tertiary education attainment.

Areas of concern

  • Fifth-worst country for intergenerational fairness overall;
  • Seventh-highest government debt with very rapid increase between 2007 and 2014;
  • Highest youth unemployment and high youth-to-adult income and risk of poverty ratios;
  • Low spending on education.

Sweden EU Accession: 1995

Highlights

  • Third-lowest per capita GHG emissions;
  • Second-highest investment in R&D;
  • High tertiary education attainment and investment in education;
  • Favourable youth-to-old democratic participation ratio.

Areas of concern

  • Fourth-highest dependency ratio;
  • Third-worst youth-to-adult income ratio and second-worst youth-to-adult poverty ratio;
  • Third-highest housing overburden ratio.

United Kingdom EU Accession: 1973

Highlights

  • High investment in education;
  • High tertiary education attainment;
  • Above-average decline in GHG emissions.

Areas of concern

  • Rapid rise in government debt over the past decade;
  • Fifth-highest spending on pensions and fourth-worst ageing burden on healthcare;
  • Fifth-worst youth-to-adult unemployment ratio;
  • Below-average expenditure on R&D;
  • Fifth-worst youth-to-adult democratic participation ratio.