European Business Summit, 26-27 March 2009: AGE President encourages European business leaders to lift company mandatory retirement ages

On the occasion of the European Business Summit on 26 March 2009, Dr Elizabeth Mestheneos, AGE President, declared that older workers must be enabled to work for longer if the EU is to meet the costs of its ageing populations and she stressed the key role that European business has to play in facilitating this.

“The answer to the demographic challenge will need to come partly from the grey themselves and older workers should be enabled and encouraged to work for longer. Employers must therefore do their utmost to keep them in employment and provide flexible working arrangements to enable them to continue to work” observed Dr Mestheneos, adding that “mandatory retirement ages must be lifted to enable those who wish or need to work to continue in paid employment”. She stressed that adequate 1st pillar (state) pensions providing adequate income for all must be guaranteed to avoid poverty which is linked directly to ill health and contributes to rising health care costs. The gender dimension in the trend to move toward 2nd and 3rd pillar pensions must be addressed as those workers – largely women – who take career breaks or who work part-time to care for dependent relatives remain at a significant disadvantage. She added that the current financial crisis provides clear evidence that supplementary pensions (2nd and 3rd pillars) cannot substitute for the responsibility of the state in ensuring sufficient pension provision for all and avoid gender gaps in pension provision.

Older workers have a valuable contribution to make today’s workforces and in our current economic context, their greater engagement presents an opportunity for a win-win situation for businesses and older workers alike. According to AGE, European companies and SMEs can help in many ways by:

– Promoting the adoption of proactive life course age management methods in the workplace;
– Allowing workers the flexiblity to combine part-time employment with volunteering, community involvement, lifelong learning and caring responsibilities;
– Implementing phased retirement to enable workers to make a gradual shift from full-time paid employment to an active period of retirement;
– Effecting a change in business culture that views older workers as active and valued members of companies;
– Strengthening efforts to make more and better jobs available to older workers and carry out research on the changes needed to encourage all older workers (including women) to work for longer;
– Investing in workers of all ages and taking an age neutral approach to (re-)training and skills upgrading;
– Supporting healthy ageing in the workplace, avoiding mental health problems caused by a devaluing of older workers, and making rational use of resources i.e. use ICT to help older workers remain healthier and fitter for longer.

For more details on how Europe can manage its ageing working populations, AGE’s position paper on how the EU can lessen the impact of the financial crisis on older workers is available below or contact Rachel Buchanan, Policy Officer for Employment and Non-discrimination

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