University of Granada, Spain
Population ageing represents one of the biggest demographic changes of the 21st century. This situation is characterized by increased longevity, with older people living longer and healthier. The new social and demographic patterns are affecting family types, intergenerational relationships and the social meaning of old age. At European level, data confirm the important weight of the elderly population; being more remarkable the population projections for that group in the short term. The increase in the elderly population leads to an overload in the economic system of the Welfare State, which is increasingly facing a transfer of income to the non-productive population. These issues therefore take on special interest, both empirically and theoretically. The study of transfers, private and public, is affected in a particularly relevant way by the changes in the age distribution of the population since they are conditioned by age (Lee, 1995). Under these circumstances, it has become crucial to analyse the implications of this phenomenon and how it will affect intergenerational relationships and transfers. Several studies have addressed the key role of the family as an important factor in these dynamics and, more specifically, its function as a mechanism of intergenerational solidarity, especially in Mediterranean models, where the traditional family generates high levels of regulation and functional solidarity. However, more recently scholars have highlighted the concept of ambivalence, or the significance of conflicts in the process of understanding intergenerational relationships. Data from The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) will be a first approach to show how these mechanisms (intergenerational ambivalence and solidarity) operate in Mediterranean context, focusing on the case of Spain. Although different authors have underlined the important role of the family in this context, we need to pay attention to the comparative aspects of different countries and their Welfare State systems to understand how, in light of the changing demographic trends, intergenerational solidarity and ambivalence could operate in different Welfare State regimes. This phenomenon could be extended to most European countries, so this topic has a special interest at different levels, including both national and comparative analysis. The proportion of people over 65 reaches almost 20% in some European countries, and it will increase in the future. Thus, societies have an unprecedented challenge and chance for current and future generations around the world. Increased life expectancy means that family members should spend more time living together as partners, as brothers and sisters, as parents with their children, or grandparents with their grandchildren. The combination of a longer life cycle and the existence of a smaller number of family members has led to a strengthening of the younger generations and a “verticalization” of family structures in which people can grow up having familiar links more vertical than horizontal. Studies have to pay attention to these changes and identify the economic and social impacts on individuals, communities and society. To exemplify this issue, as it has been said before, we will focus on Spain. In this country, between 16.5% and 17.3% of the population is over 65 (Eurostat, 2008) and the consideration of the ageing is connected with special characteristics of the Welfare State. According to the intergenerational solidarity model of Bengtson and Roberts (1991) and their classification explaining the patterns of solidarity, the importance of familial support in the Mediterranean model generates high levels of functional solidarity in this regime. This situation linked to present day postmodernist culture creates a condition of ambivalence in the intergenerational patterns. As Lüscher and Pillemer (1998) argue, intergenerational ambivalence causes contradictions at subjective and social structure levels. The specific objectives focus on three key aspects of this subject: 1. Approach to literature and available demographic data on the ageing societies and their future trends; 2. Corroborate the social change in today’s society and its influence on families and family relationships; and 3.To examine the role of transfers, especially those that occur between different age groups -intergenerational transfers- to support different groups of the population and its distributional effects in the short and medium term objective. This research will adopt a multidisciplinary approach which will allow us to approach and apprehend the study problem holistically. In any case, without prejudice to use economic, demographic, anthropological considerations, etc., the approach that will guide this studywill be mainly from Sociology. Therefore, for its relevance and future prospects, in light of this changing demography and according to the different Welfare State regimes, we will study changing patterns of intergenerational transfers from a comparative perspective, focusing on Spain.