AGE presents its manifesto to European People Party’s President

On 19 December 2018, AGE Secretary-General Anne-Sophie Parent was invited to meet the President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Mr Joseph Daul and the Deputy-Secretary-General of the party. She discussed AGE expectations regarding the EU action to combat age discrimination and ageism, foster older workers’ access to the labour market, allow older persons to combine work and pensions and promote access to quality health and long-term care. Most proposals were met with enthusiasm by the EPP President.

Need to fight age discrimination as a clear signal to citizens

Ms. Parent outlined the challenge of clearly explaining to voters, especially older voters, what they can expect from the European Union and these elections, and how the European Parliament can influence older people’s lives. A concrete measure for this would be to make the fight against age discrimination and other grounds of discrimination more visible in EU internal and external action.’

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EPP President, Mr Joseph Daul


Caring for older people and their place in our societies is an important concern for the EPP. We must make sure that all generations can fully participate in the labour market and that nobody is discriminated because of age. We need safe and equitable pensions – for today and for future generations. Everybody should be able to live in dignity and to participate fully in our societies.’

Mr Joseph Daul, President of the European People’s Party

Employment and retirement policies that support active ageing

As Ms. Parent explained, combating age discrimination is also key for changing the perception of ageing and allowing older people to work for longer if they so wish. The EPP President agreed that it is a nonsense to prohibit working after retirement, as many sectors are lacking skilled workforce and work realities have changed in some sectors, making work less strenuous.

Both agreed that the EU has a role to play here. Ms. Parent shared some examples where AGE’s policy work has been decisive: in access to supplementary pensions, AGE successfully lobbied for reducing the vesting periods that workers need to start acquiring pension rights, a measure that benefits many younger workers who have much shorter job tenures in today’s labour markets.
    

Gender equality and solidarity between generations

Discussions also covered the crucial role of solidarity between generations, a key principle for AGE, as older people are first and foremost interested in the well-being of their grandchildren. Transformations such as the growth of new types of employment, that leave many young people without access to pension, unemployment or health insurance rights are a big challenge to them.

Furthermore, Ms Parent stressed the questions of gender equality, pointing out the large pension gap between women and men remaining and some pension reforms going against the idea of gender equality, such as the reintroduction of different pension ages for women and men. Both agreed that survivor’s pensions are an important right safeguarding many older women from old-age poverty.
  

The EU’s role in health policies

On health policies, Mr. Daul and Ms. Parent exchanged on the evolution in the European medicines market. Europe is more and more dependent on imports for basic medication, which poses not only a challenge for European jobs, but also for security from shocks in world trade and challenges for the security of drugs itself. This is a key area where the EU could take action to avoid shortages.

Mr. Daul and Ms. Parent convened that they would like to collaborate further to encourage older citizens to make an informed vote in this year’s European Parliament’s elections.
  

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

What Europe does for me? – European Parliament launches new website

While the European elections are getting closer, the European Parliament has launched a new multi-lingual interactive website to illustrate concretely what difference the EU is making in the lives of Europeans.

How does Europe affect our everyday lives? How does it impact our jobs, our families, our health care, our hobbies, our journeys, our security, our consumer choices and our social rights? And how is Europe present in our towns, cities and regions? The portal What Europe Does For Me provides answer to those questions through three different chapters:

  • In my region: this section lists the different initiatives supported by the EU in over 1 400 regions and cities across the European Union.
  • In my life: the section provides a snapshot of EU action for citizens, as individuals, through a series of short notes with concrete examples. Some of them may be of particular interest to older persons, such as: Seniors using e-health services, Pensioners, Vulnerable pedestrians, Patients in rural areas, Train passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility, People with Alzheimer’s, People with disabilities, Older workers, Payment card users, People suffering from loneliness, Informal carers, Vulnerable consumers, etc.
  • In focus: longer briefing papers on EU policies explore some EU achievements and the outlook for the future action in selected policy areas.

This website, which will be complemented with more material in more EU languages over the coming months, also reminds that “Europe, or ‘Brussels’, cannot decide things on its own or in a vacuum. And the EU can only act when a goal can be best achieved together than by individual countries acting independently.”

Access here the portal What Europe Does For You

Read more in the European Parliament’s press release

Members of the European Parliament support the ‘Ageing Equal’ campaign

The Members of the European Parliament Intergroup Subgroup on Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations release and endorse the joint statement below for the International Day of Older Persons and the kick-off of the “Ageing Equal” campaign.

  • VAN NISTELROOIJ Lambert (EPP/Christen Democratisch Appèl, Netherlands, Co-Chair
  • BECKER Heinz K. (EPP/Österreichische Volkspartei, Austria), Co-Chair
  • KUKAN Eduard (EPP/Independent, Slovakia), Vice-Chair
  • VAJGL Ivo (ALDE/DeSUS, Slovenia), Vice-Chair
  • ENIFEI Brando (S&D/Partido Democratico, Italy)
  • KONEČNÁ Kateřina (GUE-NGL/Komunistická strana Cech a Moravy, Czech Republic)
  • PIETIKÄINEN Sirpa (EPP/Kansallinen Kokoomus, Finland)
  • RIBEIRO Sofia (EPP/Partido Social Democrata, Portugal)

The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a great reminder that human rights remain equally valid as the time passes. Similarly, no one should be denied her or his human rights because of age.

Building on the momentum of the celebrations surrounding this 70th anniversary, the “Ageing Equal” campaign kicking off today, on the International Day of Older Persons, gives the European Parliament the occasion to take a strong stand against ageism.

Several policy initiatives – first and foremost the European Pillar of Social Rights – give the European Union the opportunity to take action to protect and promote older persons’ rights and equality in old age.

Members of the European Parliament, in particular of the Intergroup Subgroup on Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, warmly welcome these 70 days of debate and action that will invite all Europeans to reflect and challenge the perceptions of society on ageing. Time has come to ensure that social justice and equality apply to all of us also when we reach old age!

More information about the ‘Ageing Equal’ campaign

Intergenerational fairness: which challenges, which solutions? – report of joint EP event

Do people of different ages feel they are treated fairly by public policies? Which are the choices public finances need to make in the process of demographic change? These were the topics of a lunch debate organized in the European Parliament on 21 June 2018 by AGE and the European Youth Forum and hosted by the Intergroup subgroup on Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. (You can view the agenda of this event here). The background was the release of a report by the Commission showing the impact of demographic change on public finances until 2070 and a survey conducted by the professional body of chartered accountants ICAEW.
  

MEPs call for better dialogue on intergenerational issues

Mr Heinz Becker, MEP (EPP/Austria) and Co-chair of the Intergroup subgroup on Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations declared that, despite what is often said, there is no conflict between younger and older people: solidarity between generations already exists between grandparents and grandchildren. He proposed that impact assessments of all legislation should systematically look at the effect on older and younger people.

Mr Brando Benifei, MEP (S&D / Italy), Vice-chair of the intergroup subgroup, said that the challenges linked to demographic change have to be solved by building trust between generations. He explained that the European Parliament’s work on youth unemployment or European personal pensions aim to build this trust, and that it is important to maintain dialogue between generations.

Mr Lambert Van Nistelrooij (EPP/Netherlands), Co-Chair of the Intergroup subgroup, emphasised that the European Parliament must continue to build strong results to improving intergenerational fairness, supported by the economy.

EU study: demographic change will mean rising pension and health care costs, but will be contained in the long term

The European Commission, represented by Mr Santiago Calvo Ramos, presented the outcomes of a study it has conducted together with member States from the Economic Policy Committee. The ‘Ageing Report’ tries to predict the evolution of public finances in light of demographic change until 2070, mapping the costs for education, health and long-term care, pensions and unemployment benefits. He explained that while public expenditure will rise strongly until roughly 2040, it will probably fall again afterwards to lead to an about 1.7 % (of GDP) increase of public budgets by 2070. The reality might even be a bit better, if pension reforms that have been announced and planned will be implemented. Some costs are however difficult to predict, as health care costs can evolve with technological developments. For long-term care, costs are presently quite low, because there is a strong reliance on informal (unpaid) care. With more people in need for care, the development of infrastructure will mark a very strong increase in this domain.

Survey: All generations have the same distrust in governments, but no competing priorities

Dr Susanna Di Feliciantonio presented a survey conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales, a professional body. The survey, covering 10,000 respondents from 10 European countries, addressed perceptions of intergenerational fairness of public policies. Alarmingly, only ¼ of Europeans trust their government to take the financial impact of policy decisions on future generations into account – a view shared by all age groups. ICAEW also asked respondents which policy areas should be prioritised, and different age groups largely agreed to a set order of priorities – the most important being to fight poverty and unemployment, followed by financing pension systems and care, education, fair taxation, acting for the environment and, as the lowest priority, reducing public debt. The results were broadly similar across countries. Respondents agreed that these priorities should be the responsibility of governments, not of individuals. For Dr Di Feliciantonio, the study highlights the importance of trust and transparency in policy-making, and indicates the need to better explain possible trade-offs to European citizens.

Young people: more representation needed, disadvantages in housing and care policies

Anne Widegren, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum, presented the perspective of young people. The welfare system should be based on intergenerational solidarity and bring responses to demographic change. It is important to enhance confidence of Europeans into their lives and futures, and that is a role of EU social policy. Ms Widegren supported the call for generational impact assessments in policy-making. She emphasised that there is a tendency to pit generations against each other – but this should be resisted. Generations need to come together to be stronger. Young people are under-represented in politics and therefore also in policy. As the population of the European Union is ageing, discrimination and ageism increasingly goes against young people. Housing is an important example, as they cannot own their housing, cannot afford to live alone in big cities. Especially those who do not have the help from their parents clearly face discrimination in the housing market. Age discrimination also happens to older people, acting differently, however.

When the welfare system fails to adapt to the changes in society, there is more pressure on generations. This is the case in informal care. Many carers are young people who are close to their older relatives, and many of them are women. To tackle this injustice, proper investment in care systems and work-life balance policies are all the more important.

To avoid pitting generations against each other, Ms Widegren called for a new social pact to pay more attention to intergenerational fairness.

Common challenges for older and younger people: ageism, learning, pensions, care

Philippe Seidel, AGE Policy Officer, spoke for AGE Platform Europe, highlighting the shared concerns across generations, and the shared problem with trust. AGE supports the new approach to the Justice and Values fund, as it is clearly – amongst others – dedicated to fight age discrimination, an issue for both the young and the old. Another common call is the Erasmus programme: it is good news for younger people and older adults that the funds are doubled in the European Commission’s proposal, but adults are not taken into account as learners, only their teaching staff is included in the mobility programmes.

When reforming pension systems, all generations need to participate in the debate, which is often not the case. Citizens do not trust governments for ensuring their pensions – if they were asked whether they trusted banks, the answer would probably have been worse, though. It is an important message that government have to urgently address. Another common area is precariousness and access to social protection. Both younger and older people find themselves in atypical employment, in particular younger people. This reduces their future pension rights and leads to an erosion of incomes of social protection systems. We should be together addressing this. Supporting those who need care should be seen as a societal task. The burden for long-term care, education and childcare should be supported by society and not fall only on the shoulder of families.

Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary General, added that there is a missing European Pact on Intergenerational Fairness. This would allow different units and the European Commission’s directorates to work together to get a larger view. For example on pension adequacy, we often look at what people receive, not at what they have to pay for – including long-term care. All EU institutions – Commission, Parliament and Council – have to understand that they have to rebuild trust to reconcile older and younger voters.
For further information on this event and on AGE related work, please contact Philippe Seidel at philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu

Recent background documents:

Commission’s InvestEU proposal – Joint letter from the social sector

Investing in quality, innovative and sustainable social infrastructure – Joint letter from the social sector on the European Commission’s InvestEU proposal

In view of influencing the objectives of post 2020 EU investments, AGE Platform Europe together with other actors representing the social services, health, education and social housing sectors addressed to the European Commission a letter calling to unlock investment into innovative, sustainable and quality social infrastructure projects. The call responds to the European Commission’s proposal from last June to launch a new fund, called InvestEU, for the period 2021-2027 (read the Commission’s press release here).  The fund aims at mobilising €650 billion to finance sustainable infrastructure and is the continuation of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments.

While welcoming the general orientation of the InvestEU fund, the cosignatories of the letter pledge for additional changes for the fund in order to enable lasting innovation in the social, health, education and housing and ageing sectors in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We urged in particular the European Commission to ensure that the money which public authorities will spend across the EU addresses the needs of the people they serve. This should help both to increase public satisfaction and reduce costs. Considering the growing needs for quality infrastructure in the fields of social care and support, social housing, health or education, it is only through consistent public investment that Europe can guarantee the affordability, availability, adaptability, accessibility and quality of services for its citizens including older persons.  Moreover it will be also important to explore and identify new ways to spread out the risk of such public investment through other long-term investment mechanisms; yet without undermining the aforementioned requirements.

For more details please see the full version of the letter or contact Maciej Kucharczyk, maciej.kucharczyk@age-platform.eu

AGE addresses joint call for stronger supervision powers of the European Supervisory Authorities

AGE has joined forces to denounce a disappointing European Parliament draft report on the review of the European System of Financial Supervision. The proposal drafted by the ECON committee does not include the joint amendments that we submitted to strengthen the protection of European financial services users.

We believe a strong supervision mandate will be crucial to ensure the protection of consumers of all ages, especially for products that have a very long-term impact on their lives and living standards, such as personal pension products. Moreover, a proper representation of consumers is indespensible for this, as well as the finiancial support and research into consumer-related issues. Supervisory convergence should also be part of the mandate of EU Supervisory Authorities.

To see the the call, please click here.

For any questions or comments, please contact: Philippe.Seidel@age-platform.eu

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Draft EU Horizontal non-discrimination Directive: Ten years on and sadly nothing to show for it

It is now 10 year since the European Commission proposed an important anti-discrimination law to ban discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in all areas of social life. This directive aimed to propose a EU-wide minimum level of protection against discrimination  through a horizontal approach, complementing the current EU Employment Equality Directive which forbids discrimination in employment. Unfortunately the proposed directive has been blocked by the Council of the European Union since 2008.

To mark this ‘failed’ anniversary, AGE together with 5 other European non discrimination NGOs released a joint statement to express their concern about this lack of action in the current context of growing populism. We jointly call for the adoption of a strong legal framework to protect all people in the European Union against discrimination in all areas of life. 

Read our joint statement here

Our joint statement follows the publication of  an article in Euractiv by Birgit Van Hout, the regional representative for Europe of the UN Human Rights Office, and Tena Šimonović Einwalter, the chair of the executive board of Equinet, the European Network of Equality Bodies. This article denounces an unfair situation which deprives 508 million people in Europe of effective protection against discrimination because of reportedly two EU member states which continue to oppose the directive, and despite the large support in favour of this directive.

The horizontal non-discrimnation directive was also the topic of Town Hall Discussion on advancing anti-discrimination and equality law in Europe, organised in Brussels on 31 May by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner – Europe Regional Office (UNOHCHR Europe) and Equinet. Read more on this event here

NGOs calls for an ambitious Rights & Values Programme 2021-2027 to support human rights and democracy

On 30 May 2018 the European Commission proposed the creation of a new Rights and Values funding programme in the new programing period 2021-2027 (read EC press release). The objective of this new funding proposal is to fight inequalities and discrimination and address the rise in extremism and radicalism in Europe.

Together with a coalition of NGOs, AGE warmly welcomes the new proposal that, we hope, will help protect the achievements of European integration. For that reason, we jointly call on the EU institutions and national policy leaders to make sure that the Rights and Values Programme 2021-2027 will be ambitious enough to meet the needs of civil society organisations at European level and on the ground in view of the current increasing challenges to democracy and human rights within the European Union.

Recalling that the respect and enjoyment of human rights by all is a fundamental feature of our democratic societies, the eight signatories of our joint letter to EU leaders insist on the need for strong action to protect the EU’s rule of law and address the disenchantment of many Europeans.
  

Read here our joint open letter 

AGE joins widespread call to ministers on EU work-life balance directive

AGE co-signed the open letter sent by several European umbrella organisations to the EU employment and social affairs ministers prior to their meeting for the EPSCO Council on 21 June. In the letter, AGE and other networks representing families, women, persons with disabilities, carers, children and others urge ministers to adopt a general approach towards the proposal for a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers this week.
  

Addressing a manifold ageing challenge

The Commission proposal, if adopted, contains important achievements for the growing number of older people. Many older people, most of them women, are reducing their working time or leaving employment altogether to take care of their family members in need for care and support. 80% of care work is indeed provided by informal carers in Europe – two thirds of whom are women. And this already very high percentage is expected to increase with the ageing of the population and the significant budget cuts affecting healthcare systems in many EU countries. 

Not only does this reality reduce especially women’s pensions and exacerbates their risk of poverty and social exclusion, health and isolation, but this is also a severe strain for the European economy, with employers losing the experience and workforce of these carers. In a context where the European workforce is shrinking due to demographic shifts, this constitutes a high cost for societies.
  

AGE supports concrete proposals in favour of informal care and gender balance 

AGE fully supports the idea in the Commission proposal to introduce five days of remunerated carers’ leave per worker and per year. With this proposal, carers are recognised for the first time at European level for the economic and social contributions they bring to our societies and economies. With these five days, family members can arrange person-centred, formal care arrangements if these are made available by member states. AGE also supports the introduction of the right to request flexible working arrangements, that can help carers, often older workers, reconcile their duties with employment in the longer term.

AGE also supports the provisions aiming for a more equal distribution of childcare between parents. The gender differences that are created by women interrupting their careers for a much longer time than men, and working part-time more often than men, have lifetime consequences. Currently, the gender pension gap is of almost 40% and the European Council have rightly identified this as a problem to tackle in the 2018 Pension Adequacy Report and prior Council conclusions on the gender pension gap. The proposals of the Commission, if adopted, can help to close this gap.
  

AGE therefore joins the call to the EPSCO Council of civil society organisations, Trade Unions, MEPs and members of the European Economic and Social Committee to swiftly adopt a general approach to the directive.
 

Update: Council decision 

During its meeting on 21st June, the Council agreed a general approach on Work-life balance. Carers will have right to a care leave and to request flexible working arrangements. However, no minimum payment for leave has been agreed. Although the obligations upon EU Member States are very limited (read this article by Families Europe), this is a first step toward a better recognition of carers. Read more in our article on the Council meeting.

For any questions or requests, please contact Philippe Seidel, philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu

AGE General Assembly published its Manifesto for the European elections 2019

On 7 June 2018, during its General Assembly, AGE member organisations adopted their Manifesto for the upcoming European Parliament Elections 2019. AGE Manifesto covers the major issues to be addressed to enhance the older people’s human rights in an ageing Europe. 

Pledging for a holistic approach, AGE Manifesto covers areas in which further action is needed to enhance older people’s rights. In this key advocacy document, AGE members provide recommendations to candidates MEP to help enforce older persons’ equal rights to take an active part in society and to live and age in dignity. In view of promoting and facilitating holistic approach to policy making on ageing, our Manifesto indicates and encourages to use synergies between the existing policy processes and frameworks at global and EU levels – in particular the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the European Pillar of Social Right, the European Semester together with other EU strategies, such as the Digital Single Market. They all provide member states with necessary basis to take action on the protection of human rights in old age. Finally, AGE members call for
an ambitious EU budget 2021-2027 to deliver on EU post 2020 social and non-discrimination objectives, as well as for a renewed political impulse to unblock the draft horizontal non-discrimination directive.

  
Read more in our press release

Access AGE Manifesto here (available in English and French and translated by our members into Italian, Spanish and Maltese)