‘Recession could last another 20 years’

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recessionYoung families could be among the biggest victims of the recession and the economic problems could continue for another 20 years, experts have warned.

A battle of sorts could emerge out of the recession between the younger and older generations, Holyrood's Finance Committee was told.

The worry is that it could happen if young families start to resent their struggles under the weight of student fees and huge mortgage debts, while paying taxes towards free services for a "seriously lucky" older generation who grew up on student grants and generous pensions.

A number of experts addressed the committee and in turn painted a fairly bleak picture of how the UK will afford to pay for an ageing population as it comes out of such an unprecedented downturn.

Older people's care costs

"There is an implicit assumption that if we hold our breath, in five years things will get better," said Alan Sinclair, from culture and social care charity the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing.

He said it is vital that policymakers take account of how the UK, Scottish and European economies are likely to develop over the next 20 or 30 years as they work out how to pay for elderly people's care.

Research by Harvard University professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff suggests that countries suffering large-scale financial collapses over the last 200 years have taken 23 years to recover.

However, he said there are various factors unique to our current situation that could make things even harder this time round - not least the ageing population, questions of how we can afford pensions and also the sheer scale of personal debt levels.

Another expert even called into question how long we want to extend people's lives given the problems associated with an ageing population.

Family debt

Finally, UK families who are struggling with household debt and desperate for the economy to turn around may feel downcast by another expert's suggestion that economic growth will not necessarily signal the end of the problems.

The committee was told that even if the economy grows there will be around a fifth of homeowners plunged into "real trouble" by rising interest rates that could stretch household budgets to breaking point.

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