The triple lock protects the old at the expense of the young

Fiona Townsley

June 27, 2022

On Wednesday, Sunak announced the much anticipated return of the triple lock, with pensions expected to rise by 10 per cent next April. The notion that this government is prioritising pensioners by protecting them from surging prices is hardly a revelation.

While there is a discussion to be had about the future of the triple lock and whether it should be replaced (potentially by a double lock), this is not the discussion that has been provoked. Instead the debate is surrounding the growing intergenerational unfairness. A pay rise of inflation is far more than most working age people could expect, reaffirming the government’s alliance with the old.

This approach will exacerbate already apparent generational differences. For generations, people could expect to earn more than the cohort before them, but for those born in the 1980s and beyond, generational income progression has stalled, meaning people already have to live with less. On top of this, recent government policy has proved advantageous for those on pensions and harmful to the working. Between 2010 and 2021, benefit policy changes cut incomes for working age families by £10 per week and increased those for pensioners by around £12 per week. The divide between the young and the old is becoming clearer and clearer.

Through Covid the country stayed indoors to protect the elderly, causing astronomical economic consequences. Between March 2020 and May 2021, 70 per cent of employee job losses were among under 25s. Even when jobs were retained, young people’s job-to-job moves were 32.4 per cent lower in 2020 than 2019, significantly reducing the opportunity for career progression. Coming out of the pandemic, the young were already on the back foot.

And now working age people are paying for further benefits to the old. Government policy is forcing working people to face the cost of inflation. Tuition fee interest rates (tied to RPI) were expected to be so high by September that a cap has needed to be introduced at 7.3 per cent. Even if workers can negotiate higher pay to combat inflation, frozen income tax thresholds could result in lower real take home pay. All of these inflationary costs are against the backdrop of a 1.25 per cent increase in national insurance contributions, another tax on workers. The UK is being hit by the highest inflation in 40 years, and the government is sacrificing the young in order to protect the old.

The Conservative’s largest reliable demographic of voters is pensioners. In the 2019 election, turnout for over 65s was 74 per cent compared to 47 per cent of 18-24s, and they voted 64 per cent for the Tories, compared to 19 per cent. Protecting pensioners is a tried and tested method of winning an election, and one that the government are unlikely to change.

It seems that the government have picked their side to ensure their votes. Granted pensions are part of the problem, but the issue of intergenerational inequality does not hinges on more than the triple lock.


Written by Fiona Townsley

Fiona Townsley is a Research Associate at the Adam Smith Institute.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Capitalism and freedom are under attack. If you support 1828’s work, help us champion freedom by donating here.

Keep Reading



Sign up today to receive exclusive insights