It is a story as old as boy meets girl ... who become man and woman ... who become father and mother ... who grow old ... and who become more and more resentful about the behaviour of the younger generation. Yet that story is developing today some new twists1. They arise from science, from economics and from society. For, in a very broad sense, the conflict between youth and age could be one of the defining issues2 of the 21st century.
Maybe it is too early in the century to make such a risky claim. Demography, however, is a predictable tendency. Remember that even in 1900 one thing was clear: that industrial and social change was shifting3 millions of people into the cities and the factories. The political and economic consequences of that were unpredictable, but the rise of urban working classes did indeed prove to be one of the 20th century’s defining issues.
Today, the twists and turns of youth and age are pushing in all sorts of different directions.
Statistics show clearly that science, combined with the better diet that comes with money, is making almost everyone outside the AIDS-afflicted areas of sub-Saharan Africa live longer.
The conventional worry is that rich countries will, by 2025, have too little youth and too much old age. Those countries will be divided between taxpayers and benefit-consumers, just as they are divided today between those with children (who consume public services) and the increasing number of those without (who think they pay for the services).
Even in the developing countries, a time comes, perhaps nearer 2050, when that same problem will arise. And, unless they are by then much richer, battles between the young and the old could come to dominate politics in the same way as battles between workers and bosses, rich and poor, did in the past.
Yet in the rich world, the latest transformations have been paradoxical and opportunities for the young have been proliferating. The companies of the 1990s became less hierarchical, seniority counted for less, initiative and creativity for more; and when technology conspires today to benefit those who are able to exploit it, the balance shifts distinctly towards the young.
But who are the young? Another twist brought by science is that people now feel young and look young and social customs allow them to express that feeling, in dress or behaviour. Last Christmas the top-selling disc around the world was another compilation of the greatest hits of that timeless youth phenomenon ... The Beatles. The line between youth and age has become blurred4, and is likely to get even blurrier. If governments allow for it, the line between work and retirement should also fade, as more people choose to carry on working, either full- or part-time, into their 70s or even 80s.
These are long-run5 forces. But, as a famous economist once said, in the long run we are all dead. Think now of the short-run forces, like war and economic depression, that changed the demographic trends in the 20th century. Will they do it again?
(From the press. Adapted)
1twist: gir (en direcció oposada) / giro (en dirección opuesta)
2issues: qüestions, problemes fonamentals / cuestiones, problemas fundamentales3shift: desplaçar (v.), desplaçament (n.) / desplazar (v.), desplazamiento (n.)4blur: desdibuixar, fer borrós / desdibujar, hacer borroso5long-run: a llarg termini / a largo plazo
Answer the following questions according to the information in the text Tales of youth and age.
1. Write two positive consequences of social changes for the young.Possibilities:
- [In the rich world, the latest transformations have been paradoxical and] opportunities for the
young have been proliferating.
- The companies of the 1990s became less hierarchical, seniority counted for less, initiative and
creativity for more
- When technology conspires today to benefit those who are able to exploit it, the balance shifts distinctly towards the young
2. The writer makes several predictions for the 21st century. Write two of them.Possibilities:
- The conflict between youth and age could be one of the defining issues of the 21st century.
- The conventional worry is that rich countries will, by 2025, have too little youth and too much old age. [...]
- In the developing countries, a time comes, perhaps nearer 2050, when that same problem [have too little youth and too much old age] will arise and battles between the young and the old could come to dominate politics]
- If governments allow for it, the line between work and retirement should also fade
3. Say two areas in which age differences are less marked today than they were years ago.
- [Thanks to science] People feel young and look young.
- Old music hits (like the Beatles) are becoming top-sellers.
- The line between work and retirement disappears as more people continue working into their 70s or even 80s.
4. One of these sentences is true. Which one?
- There has never been such a good understanding between the younger and the older generation.
- Changes in demographic direction cannot be predicted but their economic results can.
- Economists fear that both rich and developing countries may soon have more consumers than producers.
5. One of these sentences is true. Which one?
- In the new economic organisation, maturity is becoming more important than youth.
- We ask ourselves if in this century war and recession may cause changes in the predictable demographic tendencies.
- We can state that in the near future conflict between generations will be a thing of the past.