AGE participates in conference: Ageing in Europe and the UK

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AGE Platform Europe delivered a presentation on the challenges to employment for older people during a conference of the NEUJOBS project at the London School of Economics on 15 September 2014. Philippe Seidel, AGE Policy Officer, stressed that employment of older workers has to be considered in a holistic approach focussing on non-discrimination, age-friendly labour markets and workplaces, life-long learning and appropriate working conditions. AGE member Chris Ball, of the UK charity The Age and Employment Network, stressed the importance of mid-career reviews.

The NEUJOBS project is a 3-year research project focussing on labour in the demographic and ecological transition, sketching out labour market trends for the future in different scenarios. It asks questions about the amount of care European societies can provide.

Ageing: not a problem per se

Hilmar Schneider from the Institut für die Zukunft der Arbeit in Bonn sketched out the perceived economic impact of ageing on Germany. Considering Germany as a closed economy, he came to the conclusion that ageing is not a problem for pensions: the shortage of labour will allow wages to rise, increasing also revenues to social security – therefore, the pensions of the growing number of pensioners would be financed. However, this scenario did not take into account that labour might move elsewhere if wages rise too much: in the scenario, wages would rise by 30-40% until 2030. Bill Wells from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed how the UK has always been able to raise activity rates for older workers since 1997, despite the crisis.

Employment: Pension reforms have an impact, but other factors, too

Maciej Lis presented data comparing European countries in relation to their effective retirement ages. His most significant result is that effective retirement age has mostly been increasing due to raised statutory retirement ages in the recent past. However, the cross-country comparison allows drawing some conclusions on other factors that are important for allowing longer working lives. Most importantly, working longer requires that more people change jobs, especially after age 45. Countries where many people work primarily in one job during their lives show lower effective retirement ages. Those who drop out of the labour market early often are also those with low qualifications. Therefore, life-long learning is important for staying in employment and is yielding results in the form of wage increases. Also, employer’s human resources strategies matter. Surprisingly, the public sector is better in introducing age management strategies than the private sector.

Philippe Seidel presented AGE’s policy work on employment of older people, based on the diagnosis that while the employment of people between 55 and 65 has been rising in Europe despite the crisis, this happens on a very low level and shows huge differences between countries and between men and women. AGE is advocating on non-discrimination of older workers, while the biggest challenge remains hidden discrimination by employers. Labour market reforms have a role, but there has to be a focus beyond the focus on life expectancy only. Life-long learning plays an important role, as well as giving more flexibility to retirement ages: allow those who have a low healthy life expectancy to retire earlier and those who can and want to continue working to work longer. Workplaces need to be adapted to allow people staying longer in work and to allow reconciliation between care duties and work.

Chris Ball, from AGE member TAEN, stressed the importance of opportunities such as mid-career reviews to allow people to adapt their career in view of working longer. He stressed the importance of social dialogue taking this issue on, because it is important both to employers and to workers to accommodate an ageing workforce appropriately.

Long-term care: social investments badly needed

In a panel on the impact of ageing on long-term care, Johannes Geyer stressed that the demands of formal long-term care are increasing faster than the necessary workforce to provide it. As most care is provided by informal carers, their workforce will also be increasingly lacking on the labour market. It is therefore crucial to increase reconciliation measures, training and counselling of informal carers and to increase the number of male caregivers. Residential care should become more attractive for employees; this implies better wages, more flexibility and more part-time care arrangements. Ultimately, recruitment from abroad is an important measure to mitigate for the lack of carers.

Adelina Comas-Herrerra gave an overview of the care system in the UK: care is only provided by the State as a means-tested safety net, meaning that people have to be very poor to qualify for this. Care providers often demand different prices if care is publicly or privately funded, and in some cases people have to top up fees from their own pocket even in the public systems. However, there is not much data available on this. Ashgar Zaidi pointed out the differences in care systems: where investments in a formal care system and prevention has been put into the centre of public interventions, the costs did not explode and women are not drawn from the labour market into informal care activities.

The presentations of the conference can be found on the NEUJOBS website.

For more information, please contact Philippe Seidel from the AGE Secretariat: philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu

 

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