After a hiatus of more than four decades, Swedish supergroup ABBA announced its return to the music scene, complete with a new album and a digital concert in the works. While the way we experience music has drastically changed over the decades, ABBA remains an intergenerational fan-favourite: fans worldwide flocked to Twitter to express their excitement, with one even commenting that their new album “saved 2021”. Truthfully, I’m also part of this cohort. Like many peers, we grew up listening to our dad’s old ABBA records, watching Mamma Mia! and the disaster that was Mamma Mia! Here we go again just so we had an excuse to blast the Swedish pop group’s hits.
However, talk of ABBA’s return were quickly overshadowed over the weekend by the comeback of a, perhaps, less welcome version of financial support for the elderly: the plan to raise national insurance payments.
Sources close to the prime minister revealed an expected rise in national insurance payments to fund social care. The Times reported that health secretary Sajid David will be pushing for a 2% increase, while chancellor Rishi Sunak is arguing for a conservative increase of 1%, echoed by reports in the Daily Telegraph that the Treasury may be pushing for 1.25% increase.
However, when interviewed by Sky News, justice secretary Robert Buckland quickly backtracked on the newspapers’ reports, stressing that no decision had been made for the time being and remarking that any decision will need to be “resilient for the long-term”. Buckland added that, “this isn’t just change for a Parliament, this has got to be a generational change”.
As well as any tax rises breaching the Conservative party’s manifesto commitments, Buckland’s comment hints at the long term-effect of any decision, particularly when it comes to who would actually pay for the increase. Helen Miller, from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, argued that a raise in national insurance would increase the existing generational disparity and hit young workers the worst. Young workers would be expected to cover additional costs to National Insurance which is neither paid for by pensioners nor paid on revenue from passive income, such as from investments or rented properties.
If the plan does proceed, it may threaten an apparent surge in intergenerational camaraderie during the pandemic, as reported by a study by YouGov, which found that solidarity between different demographic classes had surged during Covid-19. However, another study by social scientist Bobby Duffy in his book Generations could argue that this solidarity has always been there, and that the ‘boomer’ v. ‘millennial’ divide is a rhetorical one, hardly rooted in real attitudes generations have towards each other. Whichever the case may be, perhaps generations share closer ties than they believe.
We will know soon enough what is agreed on the funding of social care, but regardless of the detail, perhaps we can also channel ABBA and nostalgia for the past to remember there is plenty that unites the generations…