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The dying wish for a career – can we dig out the generation contract?

23. Januar 2023

By Stephan Breitfeld 

I recently read an article written by a young woman, explaining why she didn’t strive for a career. Why indeed she thought we should stop working altogether and enjoy some unemployment. Of course the article was probably meant to ruffle some feathers but it got me thinking: Do we actually still have something of a „generation contract“?

What contract do generations have?

The „generation contract“ is a concept that refers to the social and economic expectations and obligations that exist between different generations. It is a kind of unwritten agreement between different age groups, where each generation has certain responsibilities towards the others. However, in recent years, the generation contract has become less clear, and the expectations and obligations between generations have shifted. There are several reasons for this change, including demographic shifts, economic insecurity, and changes in social values.

Let’s have a closer look at the latter: Changes in social values have led to a shift in expectations between generations. Younger generations may prioritize individualism, personal fulfillment, and social activism over the traditional values of hard work and respect for authority. This can lead to conflicts with older generations who may not understand or appreciate these values. The validity of the generation contract is a matter of debate, and there is no clear consensus on whether it still holds true in today’s society.

Everybody’s signature?

On one hand, some argue that the generation contract is still relevant and necessary. They argue that each generation has a responsibility to support the others, both financially and socially, and that this is essential for the sustainability of society. On the other hand, there are those who argue that the generation contract has become less relevant in today’s society. They argue that economic, demographic, and cultural shifts have made it more difficult for different generations to connect and work together.

Ultimately, whether the generation contract is still valid or not depends on one’s perspective. While there may be some truth to both arguments, it is important to recognize that the relationships and expectations between different generations are complex and multifaceted. It is up to each individual and society as a whole to determine how they want to approach these relationships and obligations, and to work towards building a more inclusive and sustainable future for all generations. Despite these challenges, it is important for different generations to work together and find common ground. The generation contract is not a one-way street, and each generation has a responsibility to support and respect the others.

In the end, the generation contract is being renegotiated constantly. While older people might want to cash in on their contribution during their work lives and discover a younger generation that seems unwilling to do their part, there is a huge demographic problem, that no generation can ignore. What does it take to reinstall the balance? Is the contract even still there? What do you think?

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