Now supermarkets are joining the government in propping up the over-60s
If like me you spend too much time on certain parts of Twitter, you too may have imagined that the following news story is a spoof: Iceland has stepped up to the plate on the cost-of-living crisis by offering a discount to… old people.
According to the BBC, the supermarket chain is going to offer customers over-60 a discount of 10% every Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see private companies doing more to help out people who will struggle as the cost of essentials rises. But why, oh why, have they picked older citizens?
It may be that pensioners appear on paper to have a tougher deal than those in employment. But in terms of people’s actual budgets, the coming months are going to hit young workers much harder. Most obviously, they are already pouring vast chunks of their monthly income away in rent. The average over-60, by contrast, is a homeowner — and one who has paid down much of their mortgage at that.
Nor are their incomes all they appear. Though the notorious ‘triple lock’ has been suspended for the coming year, pensions will still rise by 2.5% or inflation — a fact which will be extremely telling as the latter starts to erode the value of young people’s salaries and savings. (The government has also committed to restoring the triple lock next year.)
Then there’s taxes. Most over-60s will be over the state pension age, and thus paying no national insurance. All, if they received a university education, will have received it for free, and none will be paying the usurious effective tax rate of those young workers who paid through the nose for ‘Plan 2’ tuition fees. And that’s before we get to the ‘social care levy’, Rishi Sunak’s extra tax on working-age people to prevent older citizens having to sell their expensive houses.
Worst of all, many of the people whom the cost-of-living crisis will hit the hardest are those who spent the past two years making the biggest sacrifices for the common good during the pandemic, despite being at minimal personal risk of life-threatening complications from Covid-19.
Now Iceland is a private business, and is perfectly entitled to offer discounts to whomever it likes. But if the Government wants to make an effort to show that it’s on the side of young people — and admittedly that’s a big ‘if’ — it could do a lot worse than vocally encouraging companies from offering them targeted support, and even rewarding them for doing so.
Yes, this would doubtless aggravate a section of the population who seemingly cannot fathom that there are limits to the support older citizens require or deserve — the sort of people who were outraged when the Government temporarily suspended the triple lock rather than give pensioners a huge windfall just because the pandemic had flattened the economy.
It might also aggravate those Tory peers who think a cost-of-living crisis is the ideal time to push up food prices on public health grounds. But ministers need to show a little leadership. It shouldn’t be hard, especially if it’s the supermarkets, rather than the Treasury, picking up the bill.