At the French Presidency conference on ‘Employment at all ages: what role can the European Social Funds (ESF) play’ in Le Havre, France, on 25-26 September 2008, Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Director, recalled the necessity of taking a holistic approach to re-integrating or retaining older workers in employment.
Participating in a panel discussion that reflected on solutions explored in a series of workshops, Ms Parent stressed the important role of the ESF in allowing the exchange of experience and best practice. She added that there is a need for political will and coordination. Political decision makers need to be more involved beyond the national level, innovation in projects needs to be fostered and more needs to be done to make project transferable. There is also the problem of the lack of importance given to the results of project research and that outcomes are not put into concrete use. The ESF are doing good work but this is fragmented and does not result in effective follow-up. This needs to be addressed. Moreover, opportunities must be offered to all those who need them. The long-term cost to society of the unemployed or excluded is far greater than any outlay on training.
However, Ms Parent stressed that the problems which need to be tackled range beyond training. There are a large number of both young graduates and well qualified older people who cannot find work. She also raised the issue of wage equality for women and the increasing necessity to reconcile paid employment with family responsibilities. In particular, Ms Parent called for more policies to allow older workers to meet their duties towards their ageing parents. With the number of elderly people aged 90+ set to increase four-fold, European social systems must move to a better adjustment and recognition of the societal role which falls on the so-called sandwich generation. This impacts in particular on women aged 40-55 years who are also withdrawing from the labour market to care for their grandchildren to allow their daughters to work. It is important to develop our thinking on care leave in a broader sense and to draw inspiration from the existing examples of grandparent leave in Italy and Portugal.