AGE letter to president Juncker on the European Semester 2014 "More is needed to address older people's social realities in 2015!"
Ahead of the publication of a next Annual Growth Survey, AGE Platform Europe presents its assessment of the 2014 National Reform Programmes and of the Commission’s Country-Specific Recommendations to President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker. In addition, building on our members’ assessments, AGE has produced an overall analysis of the 2014 European Semester against AGE key policy priorities.
The present position should be read as a complement to previous AGE contributions to the current cycle of the European Semester. In November 2013, we addressed a letter to the President Barroso, calling on him to refocus the European Semester on Europe 2020 social objectives – in order to support inclusive growth and ensure decent living for people of all ages. In April 2014, our member organisations formulated alternative proposals for the 2014 Country-Specific Recommendations), which we forwarded to the European Commission in view of influencing the country-specific recommendations addressed later to Member States. With these recommendations we aimed at helping national governments and the EU achieve further progress towards a Europe that successfully manages its demographic challenge.
AGE contributions illustrate how older citizens and their organisations wish to engage in a constructive dialogue with policy makers on the needed reforms. We believe that older citizens can and should be allowed to express their views and look for solutions to achieve economic growth which will be sustainable and inclusive of all. Taking the momentum of the review of the Europe 2020 Strategy, AGE reiterates its calls on policy makers to make the following European Semester a key instrument to achieve a more social and fairer EU.
In view of the upcoming publication of the Annual Growth Survey, AGE invites the European Commission to consider in particular the following points:
- Employment issues have received more attention in the 2014 European Semester than in the past years. While this is welcome, more has to be done to fight age discrimination and support older workers who are faced with reforms that require longer working lives before one becomes eligible to a pension and yet continue to face barriers to remain in employment and access training, and suffer from a lack of targeted programmes. More needs to be done also to facilitate in particular the participation of older women in the labour market who, in addition to suffering from gender and age discrimination, are now struggling with increased difficulties to reconcile work and family care duties as a result of the reduction in social services to older dependent persons (austerity measures).
- Poverty is a growing drag on Europe’s social progress. In order to fight the social crisis, the European Semester should seek to become more instrumental in setting up adequate minimum income schemes for those who cannot or can no longer work, promoting inclusive labour market policies for all working age populations, and guaranteeing adequate minimum pensions for a dignified life.
- Pension systems are trying to become more sustainable in the interest of all generations. However, reforms should seek to guarantee an adequate pension all across a pensioner’s life including older women and workers with broken careers (nowadays the vast majority of workers cannot reach achieve a full career and will not be able to claim a full pension when they will retire). While we can understand the call to extend working lives, AGE recommends to link statutory retirement age to the healthy life expectancy rather than life expectancy. Life expectancy increases in the EU, but the healthy life year indicator does not follow the same trend: we live longer but with longer years suffering from severe chronic diseases and impairments that make us unfit to work. In the field of supplementary pensions, EU and national action has focused so far on the accumulation phase (preservation of dormant rights, vesting periods, etc.) Yet there is growing evidence that some aspects of decumulation need to be addressed urgently to protect consumers.
- Long-term care is being reformed not only because of the budgetary considerations as recommended through the European Semester. These reforms are also necessary in order to meet the growing needs of our ageing population in a context where austerity measures tend to reduce public budgets available for long-term care. We are concerned that the trend in some countries seems to indicate that - contrary to health care or disability care which are considered as a collective responsibility organised and funded through a mutualisation of risks - long-term care for older persons is a personal matter which is the responsibility of the persons concerned and their families and public authorities should only intervene as last resort.
We believe that these points are vital if the social targets set out by the Europe 2020 Strategy are to be made a reality for older citizens.