Empowering older people in the labour market for sustainable and quality working lives
In its 2023 edition of the Barometer, AGE analyses the situation of older people in the labour market and attempts to answer the following question “How to empower older people on the labour market so they can lead sustainable and quality working lives?”.
On the basis of data collected by AGE members and documentary research, a report on 19 countries has been drawn up (see below for links to the country sheets): Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Through country-by-country assessments, we have highlighted commonalities and divergences between Member States and set out AGE’s positions on three policy areas with an intersectional perspective: support for older people in the labour market, tackling ageism in the workplace and workplaces for all ages.
The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan has set the target of at least 78 %
of the population aged 20 to 64 to be in employment by 2030, paying particular
attention to halving the gender employment gap and improving young people
employment prospects. Older workers – aged 55 years and over – are not mentioned,
yet older people are far from well off in the labour market. Today, the employment
rate in Europe for people aged 55-64 is only 62.3%. This figure is lower than 40% for
women in this age group in Greece and Romania. Given the ageing of the EU
workforce, the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan’s objective cannot be
achieved without a significant improvement in the employment rates of older
Demographic changes and the ageing workforce initiate new challenges and lead towards longer working lives. However, we cannot simply push back the retirement age. We first need to remove the barriers that the older workforce currently faces to remain in employment and offer tailored solutions for quality working lives. The Member States, as well as the European institutions, must adopt an approach that reflects the realities of the life course and the influence of employment on an individual’s life, embracing the full potential and the experience of older people in the labour market and in society. Taking into account the heterogeneity of the labour market, including the diversity of sectors, companies, types of jobs and contracts, they must define policies and practices to empower older workers without further delay.
The key findings of the 2023 Barometer are the following:
SUPPORT TO OLDER PEOPLE IN THE LABOUR MARKET
- The fact that almost one in two older people aged between 55 and 64 is not working illustrates the exclusion of ageing from the scope of employment policies and the need to adopt a lifelong approach.
- Long-term unemployment rates (12 months or more) are much higher for older workers than for other age groups. The lack of support for older people in the labour market means that a large majority of them are more likely to become inactive than to find a new job after the age of 50. The Barometer highlights the need for a people-centred approach to better support older workers.
- Employment policies generally focus only on adults of “working age”, explicitly excluding people over retirement age who are denied their rights in terms of social protection, work opportunities or adult education and training. Yet in a context where more and more people continue to work beyond retirement age, this restriction seems unjustified and obsolete.
AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT
- Ageist views and considerations about older workers prevail in the labour market. It is at the root of most of the malfunctions at work and has a major impact on older people in the labour market, going as far as to deny older people’s right to work.
- European and national legislation outlawing age discrimination in the labour market contains exemptions and legal justifications that allow a wide range of practices to deny older workers the right to work, for example through the use of age limits.
- Older people are too often seen as a homogeneous group, when in fact they may be the age group with the most differences due to the various paths they choose over the course of their lives and life experience. An intersectional approach is needed to meet the needs of a very diverse population.
- The diversity of ages in a company is an added value that promotes productivity, by strengthening the complementarities between employees of different ages. It is also an opportunity to share knowledge and experience, and to build a multi-skilled team that will better meet the expectations of consumers and “receivers” of different ages and life paths.
WORKPLACES FOR ALL AGES
- Adapting workplaces and working conditions to the needs of all ages starts with recognising the specific needs of older workers in all their diversity.
- The mental health and well-being of older workers is largely impacted by ageism. This is not only reflected in the ageist daily attitudes, but also in the lack of opportunities adapted to older workers in terms of training to adapt at work in a rapidly changing environment for instance, or flexible working conditions to ensure a work-life balance.
- Digital technology is often seen as a way of providing solutions for an ageing workforce. However, not enough is being done to ensure the availability, affordability and accessibility of new technologies, which raises a number of issues, including a clear risk of exclusion for some people.
Policy Officer on Employment and European Parliament Liaison