Information provided by the Confederacíon Española De Organizaciones De Mayores (CEOMA), the Catalonian Federation of Elder Associations (FATEC) and the Fundación Pilares para la Autonomía Personal and desk research

AGE BAROMETER 2023 Employment and the situation of older people in the labour market
© Laura / Adobe Stock

Support in the labour market

In Spain, the population over 55 years of age is over 15.5 million,  representing 32% of the total population. Almost one in three people in Spain is over this age. The active population over 55 years of age who work as employees is 2.8 million. Eight out of ten active seniors work as employees, while unemployment among the over-55s is constantly increasing. The employment rate for 55–64-year-olds is 57.7%, which is lower than the European average (62.3%). The unemployment rate for this age group, at 13.4% is the highest in the European Union. It has been rising steadily for the last ten years even though it does not reflect the growing number of older people “forced” into self-employment.

After the age of 52, unemployed people can benefit from financial support via a state subsidy, provided they comply with all other retirement requirements non-related to age. However, people over the age of 55 most often turn to self-employment or entrepreneurship following the loss of a job because the chances of finding work otherwise are low. For this purpose, they use the possibility of receiving all unemployment benefits at once to become self-employed and start a new activity. 

During a career, senior talent management programmes are almost non-existent outside large companies. These large companies may also offer training courses for redundant people to support them in their search for a new job. However, these training courses are usually short and without concrete results. Finally, other large companies are implementing positive measures for the older workforce. This is the case of El Corte Inglés, the country’s largest shop, which has excluded people over 50 from job cuts, as it considers them to be “those who have the most difficulty integrating into the labour market.

In 2019, the Spanish government approved the reintegration plan REINCORPORA-T. The general objective of the Plan is to improve the employability of the unemployed and to develop preventive actions to avoid a decrease in long-term unemployment. The target groups include the over-45s. This Plan implements 63 measures divided into 6 lines of action: 1) guidance, giving priority to the over-50s, 2) training, including a number of skill training for the over-40s, 3) employment opportunities, 4) equal opportunities in access to employment, 5) entrepreneurship, with special attention to the over 45s, 6) improving the institutional framework, in order to facilitate the connection of the over 50s unemployed with companies. 

In Spain, retirement is possible from 66 years and four months old or 65 years old if people have contributed for at least 37 years and 9 months. The recent pension reform, with the aim of keeping workers in the labour market longer, has provided an incentive to prolong working life, by raising the pension increase coefficients. Active retirement is also possible by making 50% of the pension compatible with a job, provided that one is retired after the legal retirement age and has reached 100% of the regulatory base.

Most initiatives concerning older people are focused on male older workers, which does not correspond to the most excluded from the labour market in Spain.  There is a significant gap between the employment rate of men aged 55-64 (64.5%) and the employment rate of women of the same age (51.1%). It reflects the intersectionality of gender and age discrimination and can be explained by gender differences in caring for children and older people, resulting in having to leave their jobs to devote themselves to these activities, and the difficulty of finding a new job. There is also the lack of opportunity for women to access managerial and leadership positions, which is only reinforced among older women workers. 

Age discrimination in employment

In Spain, Article 14 of the Spanish Constitution provides for the equality of Spanish people before the law. Article 4 of the Workers’ Statute prohibits discrimination, including discrimination based on age, whether direct or indirect. More explicitly, Article 17 prohibits such discrimination in labour relations by providing that collective agreements, pacts or decisions of the employer that directly or indirectly discriminate based on age are invalid. Unless provided for by law, any positive or negative discrimination by the employer during employment is prohibited. In Catalonia, the Law 19/2020 of 30 December on Equal Treatment and Non-discrimination also makes it possible to make situations of ageism more specific and to penalise them.

There are some notable campaigns aimed at combating ageism in a comprehensive way. This is the case of the #OldLivesMatter campaign run in Spain by the Sociedad Española de Geriatría y Gerontología (SEGG) and 42 other organisations in 29 different countries. The ‘I’m old, not stupid’ campaign, which calls for the financial exclusion of older people with the digitalisation of all services, has also drawn public attention to the issue of ageism. Finally, the Engace-cm programme’s awareness-raising campaign against ageism through the platform “I’m older, I’m like you” –  #SoyMayorSoyComoTu – proposes the use of a tool so that anyone can calculate their level of ageism and identify problematic situations.

Some foundations are developing information documents, such as the Triangle Foundation, which offers a guide to good practices against ageism in companies. More concretely, other foundations are integrating and promoting the Silver Economy in their business development and sustainability model.

Workplaces for all ages

In Spain, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the technical scientific body specialised in the prevention of occupational risks of the General State Administration, proposes a Strategy 2023-2027. This strategy is modelled on the European strategic framework for health and safety at work. One of its objectives is to “strengthen the protection of the most exposed or vulnerable workers”. The strategy also stresses the need to consider demographic changes which imply “designing specific measures to ensure the health and prolong working life” and “the creation of new forms of employment, with a greater prevalence of ergonomic and psychosocial risks”. 

In talent management programmes, age is seen as a key factor for flexibility and mobility in the company and takes account of workers’ health. For example, the company NATURGY is developing the “We care for experience” programme in this area. It focuses on health protection and knowledge transfer.

However, there is still a lack of awareness among people, especially in certain sectors such as agriculture, the self-employed, and micro-enterprises, who do not know or do not apply certain occupational health and safety measures at all ages.

This country assessment is part of the 2023 edition of AGE Barometer dedicated to employment, which you can download below. Find out more online here



Sarah Loriato

Policy Officer on Employment and European Parliament Liaison

Sarah is in charge of AGE’s policy activities in the fields of employment, participation and active citizenship in old age. She also monitors EU initiatives on volunteering for older people and lifelong learning. She is responsible for the Task Force dedicated to on Employment, participation and active citizenship. Sarah also coordinates AGE’s relations with the European Parliament (EP).

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