Intergenerational equity

Intergenerational equity is the principle of fairness between different generations, ensuring that the needs of future generations are not compromised by the actions and policies of the present generation.
Updated: Jun 11, 2024

3 key takeaways

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  • Intergenerational equity aims to balance the economic, social, and environmental needs of both current and future generations.
  • It is a key concept in sustainable development, emphasizing the responsible use of resources and long-term planning.
  • Policies that promote intergenerational equity address issues like environmental conservation, pension systems, and public debt management.

What is intergenerational equity?

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Intergenerational equity is the concept that the present generation should make decisions and take actions that do not unfairly disadvantage future generations. It involves creating policies and practices that consider the long-term impacts on economic opportunities, social well-being, and environmental sustainability for future generations.

Importance of intergenerational equity

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  • Sustainable Development: It promotes sustainable development by ensuring that natural resources and environmental quality are preserved for future generations.
  • Economic Stability: Ensures that economic policies, such as public debt and pension systems, do not place undue burdens on future generations.
  • Social Justice: Encourages fairness in the distribution of resources and opportunities across generations, helping to prevent future social and economic inequalities.

Applications of intergenerational equity

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Intergenerational equity is applied in various fields, including:

  • Environmental Policy: Efforts to combat climate change, conserve biodiversity, and manage natural resources sustainably are driven by the need to protect the environment for future generations.
  • Public Debt Management: Governments aim to manage public debt responsibly to avoid passing on excessive financial burdens to future taxpayers.
  • Pension Systems: Designing pension systems that are financially sustainable ensures that future retirees receive adequate benefits without imposing undue costs on the working population.

Example of environmental policy

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Consider a government implementing policies to reduce carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy. These actions help mitigate climate change, preserving environmental quality and resources for future generations, aligning with the principle of intergenerational equity.

Challenges in achieving intergenerational equity

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  • Short-Term Focus: Policymakers often prioritize short-term gains over long-term benefits, which can undermine intergenerational equity.
  • Resource Allocation: Balancing the needs of current and future generations can be challenging, especially when resources are limited or economic pressures are high.
  • Measurement and Accountability: Assessing the long-term impacts of policies and holding current generations accountable for future outcomes is complex.

Example of public debt management

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A government may implement fiscal policies aimed at reducing budget deficits and controlling public debt levels. By doing so, it ensures that future generations are not burdened with excessive debt, allowing them more flexibility to address their own economic challenges.

Promoting intergenerational equity

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To promote intergenerational equity, policymakers can adopt several strategies:

  • Long-Term Planning: Integrating long-term perspectives into policy and decision-making processes to consider future impacts.
  • Sustainable Practices: Encouraging the use of sustainable practices in resource management, industry, and daily life to preserve resources for future generations.
  • Education and Awareness: Raising awareness about the importance of intergenerational equity and educating people about the long-term consequences of their actions.

Example of pension system reform

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A country might reform its pension system by gradually increasing the retirement age and adjusting benefits to ensure the system remains financially sustainable. These changes help balance the needs of current retirees with the financial stability required for future retirees.

Intergenerational equity is a vital principle for ensuring that the needs and opportunities of future generations are not compromised by the actions of the present generation. By incorporating this concept into policy-making and daily practices, societies can promote sustainable development, economic stability, and social justice across generations.

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Arti is a specialized AI Financial Assistant at Invezz, created to support the editorial team. He leverages both AI and the knowledge base, understands over 100,000... read more.