Active Ageing is, on European level, often solely frames as prolonging working lives in view of enhancing the financing of pension systems.
However, the concept of active ageing includes staying active even beyond retirement age. Older people bring valuable contributions in volunteer work, in part-time coaching and mentoring of companies or entrepreneurs, in caring for their grandchildren or family members in need of long-term care and many other community initiatives. Active ageing does not even stop as people become very frail: AGE members have collected practices on how to activate the ‘very old’, over 80 years in long-term care settings.
At the same time, many people are fit and willing to work longer, provided a number of conditions are met: sound occupational health and safety rules throughout the career, access to meaningful life-long learning opportunities, policies that allow the combination of work and care, possibilities to combine part-time pensions with part-time work to transition from work to retirement in a smoother manner. An important precondition is however also the value employers bring towards older people with their experience and contribution to productivity. Stereotypical views of older people still prevail and foster a climate of ageism in workplaces.
This is why AGE is working both on employment and active citizenship.
Employment in the Europe 2020 Strategy
On European level, Europe 2020 Strategy - which sets the EU growth objectives for the period 2010-2020 - includes a strong focus on job creation and sets the objective to reach full employment by 2020, i.e. 75% of the working-age population (20-64 years) in work, with a special regard to employment of women and of older workers.
The European employment strategy seeks to create more and better jobs throughout the EU. It takes its inspiration from the Europe 2020 growth strategy. The European employment strategy also builds on the Europe 2020's Agenda for new skills and jobs and the Juncker Commission’s Skills Agenda for Europe. In 2016, the European Council adopted a Council recommendation on the integration of long-term unemployed, providing guarantees of job-search assistance to long-term unemployed.
In spring each year as part of the European Semester, the Commission draws up the Joint Employment Report, national Country Reports and Member States have to submit their National Reform Programmes (NRPs) which are analysed by the Commission.
The Commission then issues Country Specific Recommendations that are discussed and agreed by Member states in June-July and include recommendations to boost employment and promote longer working lives.
The Commission issues also Employment guidelines – common priorities and targets for employment policies which are discussed and adopted by Member States.
Gender equality in employment of older people
Boosting the employment of women has become a high-level policy objective with the Europe 2020 Strategy, the non-discrimination directives and different initiatives, such as the Barcelona targets on developing childcare and early childhood education, the attempted reform of the Maternity Leave Directive (2008-2014), the egalisation of pension ages between men and women, the (attempted) directive on women on boards of listed companies. AGE upholds that challenges exist also for older women: because of the legacy of life-cycle discriminations and choices in family policies, the combined effect of age and gender discrimination and because of the challenges of informal caring: 70% of care work in the EU is provided by informal carers, many of which are women between 45 and 65 who have to reduce their employment because of the care needs of their family members. AGE therefore calls for work-life balance legislation in the field of care, coupled with public investment into affordable, accessible and available quality long-term care infrastructure and services for informal carers. These are summarised in AGE’s position on carer’s leave, the European Reconciliation Package developed by the NGO ‘Families Europe’ in collaboration with AGE and in the joint position of the European Women’s Lobby and AGE Platform Europe on older women’s future challenges.
The European Commission has started to consider the issue of carer’s leave in the announced roadmap on the reconciliation of work and family life in 2015, which gave rise to a public consultation and an ongoing process of social partner consultations.
Health and safety at work
Working longer is only possible if the conditions at the workplace are in place to enable active ageing at work. Physical and psycho-social risks at work ranging from exposure to dangerous substances and noise, musculo-skeletal disorders, harassment, stress and burnout, exposure to carcinogens etc. influence the employability of older workers. AGE considers it therefore important that strong health and safety rules are in place and properly applied.
The European Commission has elaborated the Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020 and the European Parliament has contributed with a strong report on the issue in 2015. The EU AGencyu for Health and Safety at Work has launched a campaign from 2015 to 2016 on ‘Healthy Workplaces for All Ages’, which is raising awareness on the importance of prevention.
Beyond working and caring, older people contribute to society by their voluntary engagement in many different ways. AGE wants this commitment to be recognised, fostered and supported by policies on all levels.
The Erasmus+ programme provides opportunities for adult education, which can also be used for life-long learning programmes for older citizens, as it has been shown by the project ‘Active 80plus’, to which AGE member OVN-NL contributed.
- In 2000, the EU adopted a legislation to combat discrimination in employment on various grounds including age. The directive 2000/78/EC introduced the concept of age discrimination in employment and has resulted in impressive case law at EU and national level.
- In response to the high level of unemployment in Europe, the European Commission launched in April 2012 a set of measures to boost jobs, the so called "Employment package".
- The European Commission also takes non legislative initiatives to boost employment for example through encouraging diversity management.
- The Juncker Commission introduces the ‘Investment Plan for Europe’, meant to restart employment and growth by relaunching private and public investment in 2014
- The European Commission launches a new ‘Roadmap for the reconciliation of work and private life’ and consults the public and social partners on introducing new legislation, including assessing the possibility of a carer’s leave, in 2015
- The ‘Skills Agenda for Europe’, launched in 2016 puts more emphasis on life-long learning systems
- The ‘Five Presidents’ report on completing the Economic and Monetary Union’ calls for a stronger social dimension in 2015 and in 2016, the Commission launches a large consultation on an ‘EU Pillar of Social Rights’
The EU Agency for Health and Safety at work, EU-OSHA, launches a two-year awareness-raising campaign on ‘Healthy Workplaces for All Ages’.
Responsible staff member: Philippe Seidel Leroy, firstname.lastname@example.org