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In this paper we explore the question of the sustainability of the intergenerational contract that is represented by the current structure of social welfare. We argue that sustainability and time consistency of social welfare policies could be improved by more explicit recognition of the social welfare system as a relational contract that should be reinterpreted in the light of changes in technology, changes in our understanding of the incentive effects of different approaches to social welfare provision, and changes in society as a whole. We suggest that too much of our social welfare policy is based on approaches developed under the social and economic conditions and technology of the past, and that this is a key source of the potential challenge to the sustainability of current policies.
The authors acknowledge helpful comments from members of the New Zealand Treasury Long Term Fiscal Planning Group, and referees, Arthur Grimes, Kirsten Jensen, Becky Prebble, and Graham Scott.
The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Working Paper are strictly those of the author(s). They do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury or the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand Treasury and the New Zealand Government take no responsibility for any errors or omissions in, or for the correctness of, the information contained in these working papers. The paper is presented not as policy, but with a view to inform and stimulate wider debate.