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Current Academic Prize

Intergenerational Justice Prize 2017/2018

“How attractive are political parties and trade unions to young people?”

The Stuttgart-based Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations (FRFG) and the London-based Intergenerational Foundation (IF) jointly award the biennial Intergenerational Justice Prize, endowed with EUR 10,000 (ten thousand euros) in total prize-money, to essay-writers who address political and demographic issues pertaining to the field of intergenerational justice. The prize was initiated and is funded by the Apfelbaum Foundation.

Aim of the Competition

Through the prize, the FRFG and IF seek to promote discussion about intergenerational justice in society, and, by providing a scholarly basis to the debate, establish new perspectives for decision-makers. The invitation to enter the competition is extended especially to young academics from all disciplines.

For the 2017/2018 prize, the FRFG and IF call for papers on the following topic:

“How attractive are political parties and trade unions to young people?”


The Intergenerational Justice Prize is endowed with EUR 10,000. The prize money will be distrib­uted proportionally among the best submissions, which can be more or less than the top three submissions. Winning submissions will be considered for publication by the editorial team of the Intergenerational Justice Review (IGJR; for the winter issue 2018.

Closing date: 1 July 2018


  • researchers from all fields of social science, especially young researchers (students, gradu­ates, post-docs). There is no age limit. Collaborative submissions are also welcome.


  • can be submitted in English or German
  • should be 5,000 to 8,000 words in length (excluding figures, tables and bibliography)

For full entry requirements (details of required formatting, addresses for submissions etc), email Antony Mason at

Spread the word! Click on the image above right for a downloadable A4 poster!

Topic abstract

Political parties are intrinsically linked to the functioning of modern democracies. They provide fundamental linkage mechanisms of representation and participation that connect citizens with the state (Keman 2014; Webb 2000). Party members and affiliates, more generally, are in this respect one of the linking mechanisms that are beneficial for the effective functioning of political representation.

Members are often described as the “eyes and ears” (Kölln/Polk 2017; Kölln 2017) of parties in the electorate because of their communicative role. They bring new policy ideas to the party and communicate the party’s programme within society. In addition, members are among the primary sources of political personnel because party membership is often an informal prerequisite for acquiring political office. From this representative perspective and following the notion of “descriptive representation” (Mainsbridge 1999), members’ social makeup should ideally reflect that of the general population.

Although party members have hardly ever been entirely representative of the population in their demographic characteristics (Scarrow/Gezgor 2010), the general decline of party membership seems to affect younger generations disproportionately. They enrol less often in parties, render­ing the parties’ age-profiles all too often considerably older than the broader electorate that they hope to embrace (Bruter/Harrison 2009; Scarrow/Gezgor 2010). For instance, the share of young members (under 26 years old) in German parties is at most 6.3 % (LINKE) but can also be as little as 2.2 % (CSU) (Niedermayer 2016). In contrast, around one quarter of the general population belongs to this age group. And even though the age-profile of Swedish parties is considerably better, with over 14 % of members being under 26 years old (Kölln/Polk 2017), this figure is largely driven by members of the Green Party (Miljöpartiet) in which almost 26 % are under 26 years old. In other countries, hardly any of these problems seem to exist. According to 2017 figures from the United Kingdom, the share of members aged 18-24 reflects the general popula­tion of 8.9 % quite well: group size estimates suggest that 18-24s make up 14.4 % of the Green Party, 13.2 %  of the Con­servative Party and 11.5 % of the Labour Party, with only the Scottish National Party and UK Inde­pendence Party (UKIP) below the 8.9 %, at 6.9 % and 6.7 % respectively (UK Party Members Project;

Overall, however, the statistics suggest not only an age problem in political parties across many European democracies, but also substantial country- and party-level differences. German parties seem to be doing particularly poorly in the descriptive representation of the young, while other countries and individual parties are apparently much better in engaging younger generations.

Trade unions are facing similar problems in recruiting young members across Europe (Gumbrell-McCormick/Hyman 2013). Reasons for this pattern might be found in the dominant political issues that trade unions care about. Younger people are confronted with the rapidly changing nature of the workplace as well as the rise in temporary work and zero-hours contracts, and are probably more interested in salaries, entry requirements and work contracts, rather than in end-of-career matters such as pensions and retirement ages. The skewed age profile of trade unions could shift the discussion more towards the latter con­cerns, deterring younger generations and reinforcing existing age problems.

Given members’ importance and their overall age profile, it could be argued that political power or access to it is unequally distributed between the young and old. Parties and trade unions might be disproportionately representing older rather than younger generations because of their own social-demographic makeup. This could create an unjust distribution of political influence between living generations.


The Intergenerational Justice Prize 2017/18 aims to illuminate the complex relationship between young people and political parties and trade unions. It invites analyses of proposals for reform from the literature, such as an introductory stage of full membership and reforms of party con­ventions, participatory modes and structures.

Entries to the competition could approach the topic through a broad range of questions, includ­ing:

  • Is the unequal representation of young members in and for political parties and trade unions problematic from a democratic perspective?
  • What about the age structure of employers’ associations? Could the underrepresentation of younger members be viewed as a problem here as well?
  • How great is the reluctance of young people to engage in and for political parties and trade unions from an internationally comparative perspective, for instance OECD-wide? What can we learn from a historically comparative perspective?
  • Why do young people avoid political parties and trade unions?
  • Why are some parties and trade unions better than others in engaging younger people?
  • What can parties and trade unions do to attract more young members or affiliates and to retain them? What lessons can be learned from examples in which specific parties or unions have accomplished this, such as recently the British Labour Party?
  • What role can the youth organisations of political parties and trade unions play in increasing the attractiveness of their mother organisations?
  • Do regulations prohibit specific reform measures which could render parties and unions more attractive for young people? What role do membership fees play?
  • What would be the consequences if young people permanently and irrevocably eschewed political parties?

Note that these are non-binding suggestions: participants are strongly encouraged to come up with their own research puzzles. You may adapt the title according to your chosen subject, but the paper must in essence reflect the topic. All ideas presented in the submitted papers should be innovative, creative and with a focus on civil society issues, with practical applications. The FRFG and IF particularly appreciate participants trying to explain complex ideas in as simple and accessible terms as possible. Submitted research papers may employ all possible methodological approaches.


The jury will consist of, inter alia:

Chair: Prof. Ann-Kristin Kölln (Aarhus University, DK)

Prof. Jan van Deth (University of Mannheim, DE)

Prof. Matt Henn (Nottingham Trent University, GB)

Prof. Susan E. Scarrow (University of Houston, USA)

Dr. Katharine Dommett (University of Sheffield, GB)

Dr. Craig Berry (University of Sheffield, GB)

Literature cited in the text above

Bruter, Michael / Harrison, Sarah (2009): The Future of Our Democracies: Young Party Members in Europe. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gumbrell-McCormick, Rebecca / Hyman, Richard (2013): Trade Unions in Western Europe: Hard Times, Hard Choices. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Keman, Hans (2014): Democratic Performance of Parties and Legitimacy in Europe. In: West European Politics. Vol. 37 (2/2014), 309–330.

Kölln, Ann-Kristin (2017): Has Party Members’ Representativeness Changed Over Time? In Anderssoon, Ulrika et al. (eds.): Larmar och gör sig till. SOM-undersökningen 2016, SOM-rapport no. 70, Gothenburg: SOM-Institut, 387–400.

Kölln, Ann-Kristin / Polk, Jonathan (2017): Emancipated party members: Examining ideological incongruence within political parties. In: Party Politics, Vol. 23 (1/2017), 18–29.

Mansbridge, Jane (1999): Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent “Yes.”, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 61 (3/1999), 628–657.

Niedermayer, Oskar (2016): Parteimitglieder in Deutschland: Version 2016. Arbeitshefte aus dem Otto-Stammer-Zentrum, Nr. 26, Berlin.

P-PM16-NEU.pdf. Viewed on 07 November 2017.

Scarrow, Susan E. / Gezgor, Burcu (2010): Declining memberships, changing members? European political party members in a new era. In: Party Politics, Vol. 16 (6/2010), 823–843.

Webb, Paul (2000): Political parties in Western Europe: linkage, legitimacy and reform. In: Representation, Vol. 37 (3–4/2000), 203–214.

Literature suggestions

Bruter, Michael / Harrison, Sarah (2009): Tomorrow’s Leaders? Understanding the Involvement of Young Party Members in Six European Democracies. In: Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 42 (10/2009), 1259–1291.

Cross, William / Young, Lisa (2008): Factors Influencing the Decision of the Young Politically Engaged to Join a Political Party: An Investigation of the Canadian Case. In: Party Politics. Vol. 14 (3/2008), 345–369.

Fitzenberger, Bernd / Kohn, Karsten / Wang, Qingwei (2011): The Erosion of Union Membership in Germany: Determinants, Densities, Decompositions. In: Journal of Population Economics, Vol. 24 (1/2011), 141–165.

Kerrissey, Jasmine / Schofer, Evan (2013): Union Membership and Political Participation in the United States. In: Social Forces. Vol. 91 (3/2013), 895–928.

Scarrow, Susan E. (2015): Beyond Party Members: Changing Approaches to Partisan Mobilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Van Haute, Emilie / Gauja, Anika (eds.) (2015): Party Members and Activists. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Webb, Paul / Poletti, Monica / Bale, Tim (2017): So who really does the donkey work in “multi-speed membership parties” ? Comparing the election campaign activity of party members and party supporters. In: Electoral Studies, No. 46, 64–74.

Whiteley, Paul (2014): Does regulation make political parties more popular? A multi-level analysis of party support in Europe. In: International Political Science Review. Vol. 35 (3/2014), 376–399.