Letter : We may start to breed again

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We cannot be "absolutely sure" about "the ageing of our societies" as Hamish McRae says (Business, 9 March). It is quite possible that people in the West may start having more children again, spontaneously or in response to government incentives.

Mr McRae is silent on the conflicts that a demographic shift will surely bring. In the same issue, Nic Cicutti shows how, in the context of a downsizing state facing many rival welfare claims, cutting the cake can become highly contentious ("An unnecessary gamble..."). Already in the US we see budget battles between spending on the young (nurseries and schools) versus the old (health care and nursing homes). Given that we all start young and end up old this may seem an odd and sad basis for social conflict. But since class, sex and race all form bases for distributional struggle, the trends described by McRae make it all but certain that there will be age wars as well.

Aidan Foster-Carter

University of Leeds