European Parliament calls to combat age discrimination at work and rejects Commission’s employment guidelines

European Parliament logo The European Parliament has adopted important resolutions, one on the application of the ‘employment equality’ directive and the other one on the guidelines for employment policies of member states. The first directive prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of age and disability. The Parliament is concerned about the low employment rates of older people and about the high gender gap in employment rates for older workers. It proposes to combat age stereotypes, to use the potential of new technologies to allow a better balance between work and private life, and to address skills mismatches, especially regarding digital skills. On the employment guidelines, the Parliament rejects the Commission proposal to continue with the same guidelines as before and proposes new ones, putting the fight against poverty and unemployment high on the agenda. It highlights important concerns for older worker in its proposal.

Employment equality: low employment of older workers with high gender disparity

In its resolution on the employment equality directive, the Parliament notes that only about one in five workers between 55 and 64 are currently in employment. Gender differences in employment rates exist at all ages, but in this age group they are particularly high – employment rates of older women are by 14.5 percentage points lower than for older men. It highlights that the prohibition of age discrimination seems not to be properly rooted in the application of the employment equality directive, as the European Court of Justice often accepts differential treatment if this serves intergenerational solidarity. The Parliament holds that this reflects the still persisting idea that jobs for older workers are detrimental for the employment of younger workers – while those member states with the highest employment rates in old age fare better as well regarding youth unemployment. The Parliament highlights the added value of older workers and of intergenerational teams for skills transfers and productivity.

Solutions: combat age discrimination everywhere, campaign on age-friendly employment and allow carers to work

To combat age stereotypes in employment, the Parliament highlights that it is important to combat age discrimination in all areas of life. This should be started by the adoption by the Council of the horizontal equal treatment directive, but also through other measures such as community support, coordination tools and frameworks as well as positive action.

The Parliament highlights the important contribution of the EU Agency for Health and Safety at Work in bringing forward its campaign on healthy workplaces for all ages and the Commission for starting a joint management project with the World Health Organisation to spread the WHO Global Age-friendly Cities campaign to the EU.

The report reiterates the call of the European Parliament for the introduction of carer’s leave, the recognition of care credits in pensions systems, and the need for adequate funding to build up free high-quality public services that provide proper care and assistance for children and older people.

Statistics on discrimination are often unavailable or not harmonised among member States: the Parliament calls for a more systematic collection of statistical data on these, to be

AGE welcomes the report which contributes in keeping the fight against age discrimination high on the agenda. The fight against age discrimination should even be further streamlined by increasing the capacity of public employment services and providers of vocational education and training to validate and recognise experience.

Employment guidelines: stronger focus on life-long learning, work-life balance

In a second resolution, the Parliament has proposed new guidelines for the employment policies of member states, a document normally adopted only by the Council and guiding Country-Specific Recommendations and reform efforts in the European Semester. The proposed guidelines put a stronger focus on reconciliation of work and family life throughout the life-course. The Parliament adds a guideline on quality of training systems to the existing guidelines on labour demand, labour supply and skills, functioning of labour markets and social inclusion.

Demand- and supply side measures proposed by the Parliament

On labour demand, the Parliament asks for the promotion of quality jobs that are available for at-risk groups, especially in the ‘green, white and blue’ sectors and the social economy. It calls for removing discrimination on the labour market. To increase supply of labour and skills, the Parliament asks to remove barriers in the access to adult education and a focus on high-risk groups and their needs, by offering retraining of skills after job losses. The Parliament asks for active ageing strategies to make workplaces more healthy. To tackle long-term unemployment, the Parliament wants a mix of demand and supply-side measures and personalised, needs-based support and social protection schemes for long-term unemployed. Skills leaned outside the formal education should be better recognised to form a basis for further training and lifelong employability.

Enhance the functioning of labour markets by quality standards for active employment support

To improve the functioning of the labour markets, the Parliament proposes quality standards for active labour market policies. It calls to enhance the reintegration of long-term unemployment and to provide affordable care to allow for a better balance between work and care duties, as well as decent workplace conditions including health and safety. It calls for civil society organisations to be involved in the design and implementation of reforms, alongside social partners. To enable the mobility of citizens, the Parliament asks for enhancing the portability of pensions.

Step up the fight against poverty: Minimum pensions above poverty level

In the field of the fight against poverty, the target which shows the least progress of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the Parliament calls for an approach taking into account all stages in life. It stresses especially the access to public services such as housing support, training and job assistance, accessible health care to all and access to basic services. The Parliament recommends to work on the effective take up of minimum income schemes in a non-discriminatory way. Important for older persons, the Parliament demands that pension systems be structured that ensures sustainability, safety and adequacy, aiming a decent retirement income at least above poverty level. To make pension systems sustainable, the Parliament calls for exploring also the opportunities of higher employment rates, the health and wealth situation and working conditions. It calls for improving the quality, affordability and accessibility of health care and long term care systems and for solidarity-based financing of these sectors.

AGE Platform welcomes the amendments to the employment guidelines put forward by the European Parliament. Making pension systems sustainable and effective in protection older persons from poverty has to be linked to all factors that influence pension system, including labour market participation and health. The creation of inclusive labour markets for all, where also older workers have access to retraining, upskilling and active employment support is crucial to increase their employment rates. Investments into care infrastructure and efforts to make work life compatible with care duties have a high potential to increase gender equality of labour markets. Investments into social services are not only important to prepare the workforce for rising needs due to ageing, but also to allow people to stay healthy and independent for as long as possible, enhancing their chances to continue working.

More information

For further information, please contact Philippe Seidel Leroy at the AGE Secretariat:

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