Support for older people in the labour market 

Key messages and recommendations from the Barometer 2023

  • Age discrimination in employment. Find out more here
  • Workplaces for all ages. Find out more here
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Career long guidance and management  

Employment rates and long-term unemployment figures underline the increasing difficulties for some workers to keep up with rising pension ages. The sustainability of careers cannot be based solely on the goodwill of workers, incentives or obligations for employees to work longer. Major investments must be made in training, mobility and tailor-made working conditions. To achieve this, employees must be involved in their own career development through consultations on the implementation of the employer’s social policy, as well as through regular consultations between employers and employees.

European rates in 2022 

Eurostat numbers 

From 20 to 64 years old

From 50 to 64 years old 

From 55 to 64 years old 

Employment rates




Long-term unemployment rates of the total unemployment 




In Belgium, a collective agreement concluded between social partners provides for the adoption of a plan to maintain or increase the number of employees aged 45 and over in private companies. The plan is assessed by employee representatives, such as trade unions or works councils, who can also make suggestions that cannot be rejected by the employer unless there is written justification. Measures of that plan could relate to recruitment processes, skills and qualifications, care development or working conditions for instance. 

Career management and career guidance are often overlooked in older age. Looking at the individual’s situation, desires and needs, to understand the career path and expectations for the future is an important way to maintain older workers in employment. Some organisations have implemented such management for employees of all ages in order to retain talent, by setting up regular meetings to assess the skills, needs and desires of their workforce. This way, these employers can also better target the policies and adaptations they should implement to ensure the motivation and well-being of the entire workforce and thus boost their productivity, attract qualified candidates and reduce staff turnover. 

Using a more flexible life-course approach in the labour market

In contrast to a traditional view of the life-course where an employee gets initial education, works, and retires, employment policies should be based on a more flexible model. 

The traditional view of the life-course fuels prejudice and exclusion, particularly at the end of a career. In a later career, retirement is seen as natural or inevitable, regardless of the abilities of older people or their desire to continue working. However, alternatives to retirement should be possible. Rethinking this model by proposing more flexibility throughout working life must result in the adoption and application of policies supporting, periods of learning, rest, care or retraining for a second or third job at any point in life for instance.  

A more flexible approach to the life-course is also a way to recognise the diversity of older people’s life experiences. Older persons are too often seen as a homogeneous group, even though their life-courses differ widely because of the differences they have accumulated throughout their lives. Adopting a flexible life-course approach therefore also means looking at the individual to best meet the needs and expectations that will enable sustainable, quality working lives. 

Employers play a predominant role in the sustainability of working lives. However, the implementation of career management and guidance cannot be the sole responsibility of employers, which do not always have the necessary resources to provide it such as small and medium-sized companies. It must also be supported by policies. In Slovenia, career orientation is defined in the Labour Market Act which states that lifelong career orientation includes activities that enable the identification of abilities, competencies and interests for making decisions in the field of employment, education, training and career choices, and enables the management of life paths in such a way that individuals learn and use these skills and competencies. 

Interviews focusing on the employee’s long-term career plans should be conducted. It should assess the quality of working conditions, and take into account the employee’s entire previous career path and career prospects up to the time of retirement. 


European Commission – a better representation of retired civil servants  

The AGE member SEPS/SFPE, the Association of Seniors of the European Public Service aims to defend the interests of former European civil servants and other agents as well as colleagues in invalidity and, as a priority, to defend their social rights. The major objective of the association is the effective defence of acquired rights of the former members of staff beyond their period where they were active for the European public service: the sickness insurance system (JSIS), pensions, the method of adjusting pensions, allowances and any other relevant questions. In this respect, SEPS advocates for the effective representation of the retired staff with voting rights in the main joint committees and negotiating groups of the Staff Regulations for officials of the European civil service. In order to be represented and informed, SEPS invites members of staff who are still active but close to retirement, and who wish to defend their future rights, to become members of the Association and of the Board of Directors. In this way, active SEPS staff take part in negotiations when rules concerning “post-active staff” are discussed. 

SEPS volunteers are also responsible for ensuring good communication with their members and are committed to making this accessible. To do so, they ensure that their communication is both digital and distributed by post and their meetings are hybrid, accessible both by videoconference and on-site in Brussels. Finally, they provide ongoing assistance to their members through their call centre, which includes legal assistance and office hours. 


 A more flexible lifecourse approach also involves nurturing talent. Career management is thus inextricably linked to lifelong learningTo achieve principle 1 of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the EU-level target of 60% of all adults taking part in training every year by 2030, lifelong learning must be accessible at all ages. However, too often life-long learning offers are targeted at the young and forget to address older people. When they are, they are not that relevant or helpful in the labour market. In the edition 2021 of the Barometer, AGE members underlined the fact that the potential of learning policies targeting older persons is not sufficiently harnessed. They particularly highlight the impact of ageist stereotypes, lack of communication and of systematic entitlements to training hinder the participation of older workers in these programmes.  Moreover, pensioners are systematically excluded from informal and formal learning opportunities, while specific groups such as people with disabilities, older people living in rural areas and older people from migrant backgrounds face additional barriers.  

It is all the more important to give priority to jobseekers at risk of becoming long-term unemployed to start training or education, whatever their age. 


In the context of labour shortages in some sectors, public employment services are challenged to promote the value of older workers with employers and to build the employability of jobseekers. Although long-term unemployment figures (over 12 months) are particularly high among older persons, there are currently few or no policies in place to guarantee their return to the labour market. Due to the lack of support and alternatives, many older jobseekers turn to self-employment, which is a way to pursue passions and interests, to be more flexible and align with their own needs. However, this includes dealing with a number of challenges, such as the lack of support for older people in this area, or risks such as the lack of adequate social security. Also, the self-employment option might not be an option for blue-collar workers. 

To prevent unemployment among older workers, France is currently discussing a tool called the “index senior”, designed to assess the number of older people employed by a company, to encourage them to maintain or increase their numbers by implementing appropriate measures, and to measure their progress. With a similar objective, Sweden has adopted two age-neutral measures that indirectly help older workers keep their jobs. The “first in, last out principle” provides that, in the event of redundancy, employees with the most seniority should not be the first to be made redundant, thereby largely protecting older employees and encouraging the retention of the most experienced workers. The “equal pay for equal work” principle is also an incentive to keep or hire older workers in the company. While seniority wages can be a financial barrier for organisations to hire or retain older workers, this Swedish rule ensures that older and younger workers are paid equally within the organisation. 

Regarding unemployment, reducing the minimum income adequate for reintegration could constitute a disincentive to work or a poverty trap when the first job is unsustainable, underpaid or of low quality. The Council recommendation on adequate minimum income for active inclusion contains a recommendation to allow minimum income to be maintained during the transition to the labour market.

A person-centred approach to support older jobseekers 

To facilitate a return in the labour market, a person-centred approach should allow personalised action plans, including profiling, expectations, identification of training needs and matching support for instance.  It is more than essential to adequately support older job seekers not only to find a job but also to ensure sustainable careers. With better equipment, trained staff and better funding, public employment agencies could better support older jobseekers by connecting them to supporting entities that provide tailor-made training and guidance. From that perspective, the Guarantee of Employability of Workers programme developed in Italy aims to foster an approach centred on the individual, with public and private services and an offer of personalised pathways to integration or reintegration into the labour market. Another type of experimentation is being developed in France with the Territoire Zéro Chômeur de longue durée which aims to offer any person who wishes to work but has been out of work for an extended period of time, a permanent job, by developing and financing useful activities that are not in competition with existing jobs, in order to meet the needs of the various players in the area. This inspiring initiative is supported by a number of players with a view to developing it at European level through an EU job guarantee

As well as supporting lifelong learning, we need to invest more specifically in learning second careers. Depending on the type of job and the associated working conditions, workers’ ability to remain in the labour market can be weakened as early as mid-career. Training for a second job from mid-career would enable workers to change professions whenever the need or desire arises. On this model, a Dutch initiative called Silver Starters supports entrepreneurial activity and aims to give older people the opportunity to live out an active lifestyle, increase employability and reduce risks of financial vulnerability and ageism. 


Self-employment often represents the only viable opportunity for older persons looking for work, for pensioners wishing to continue working or for people to reduce their working hours for other priorities in their later careers. This lack of opportunity varies from one Member State to another. Yet there are few policies to support these people in their search for work.  This task is often the fruit of the work of local associations, as in the case of the German association Mice for Older People which offers jobs for older people and counselling services for pensioners who want to continue working in several cities. Among all the activities offered, there is the possibility to meet people in the same situation fortnightly for three months to help each other realise personal goals on the topic of “Working 60+”.  

All AGE’s recommendations to better support older people in the labour market can be found in the Barometer and in the one-pager, which you can both download below.


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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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