European Accessibility Act: where do we stand?

End 2015 the European Commission proposed a Directive to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services by removing barriers created by divergent legislation. This will facilitate the work of companies while bringing benefits for older people and people with disabilities in the European Union. Continue reading “European Accessibility Act: where do we stand?”

Council and Parliament adopt the revised directive on occupational pensions

In December, the Council of ministers of the EU has finally adopted the revised ‘Directive on Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision’ (IORP-II), regulating occupational pensions, after the approval of the European Parliament in its plenary session. The directive aims to strengthen requirements on the protection of beneficiaries, mainly through improved information, transparency and governance requirements. AGE has been accompanying the revision process started in 2014 and welcomes the adoption of the revision, while regretting that important improvements have been left out of the proposal.
Continue reading “Council and Parliament adopt the revised directive on occupational pensions”

Call for more support for non-formal adult education

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution in its February Plenary on the Erasmus+ programme for education and training. The resolution highlights the importance of non-formal adult education and learning for integrating adults in the labour market and to promote their social inclusion. The Parliament calls for increasing the significance and visibility of non-formal education in Erasmus+ and the development of adult learning institutions.
Continue reading “Call for more support for non-formal adult education”

New resolution endorses call to protect older person’s rights

On 14 December 2016 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the ‘Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter 2015’, which includes a reference to older people’s human rights. The report of the European Parliament explicitly supports our call for a better use of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), an active involvement in the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing of the United Nations, and a new international legal instrument that would address the particular challenges of older persons, as highlighted in AGE general declaration and Human rights Manifesto adopted by AGE members during their general assembly in November.

Continue reading “New resolution endorses call to protect older person’s rights”

Work-life balance, women in poverty and gender pension gap: gender equality on the agenda of European Parliament and Council

While the Parliament has put emphasis on the fight against poverty of women in a recent report, the Council of ministers of social affairs has also supported action to fight poverty of women in conclusions negotiated under the Slovakian presidency. The Council calls for the implementation of the Commission’s roadmap on work-life balance, the proposed European pillar of social rights, and to include two new indicators on the at-risk-of poverty rate of migrant women and of inactive women, including by age groups. The Parliament went further and supports the call for recognising care periods through care leave arrangements, employee-driven flexible working time, care credits in pension schemes and supporting services. AGE welcomes many of the points taken up by the Parliament and the Council, but considers that some points are missing. Continue reading “Work-life balance, women in poverty and gender pension gap: gender equality on the agenda of European Parliament and Council”

European Parliament endorses EU directive for web accessibility of public websites

On 26th October 2016, the European Parliament approved the EU Directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies. The new rules establish a set of criteria and technical provisions to enable everyone, including people with disabilities (in particular vision or hearing impairments), to have access to online data and services provided by public sector bodies.

Read more on the European Commission website

This rewards AGE Platform Europe’s campaign, started several years ago together with the European Blind Union (EBU), the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the European Organisation representing Consumers in Standardisation (ANEC), in favour of a binding legislation on web accessibility. Our common objective was to ensure that public sector websites and websites delivering basic services to citizens are made accessible to all.

Useful links :

Parliamentary Watch: European Parliament says Erasmus+ should be ‘for all ages’

The European Parliament has adopted a report on the Erasmus+ programme and other tools to support life-long learning. The Erasmus+ programme centralises the programmes on training and education, formerly comprising Erasmus (students), Comenius (primary and secondary schools), vocational education and training (Leonardo Da Vinci) and adult education (Grundtvig).

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament deplores that especially vocational education and adult education have lost visibility in the Erasmus+ programme, often seen by outsiders as being only for higher education students.

The Parliament underlined here the importance of training and upskilling needs of long-term unemployed and as well as the role of senior citizens in training programmes. It demands in this new report that continuous vocational education and training should be taken into account by the programme and that mobility retraining programmes should be open for unemployed people of all ages. The Parliament calls upon the Commission to publish a Green paper on vocational education, training and mobility and the recognition of skills and competences in Europe

An important issue in the field of lifelong learning is the certification and recognition of skills: member states have very different systems of valuing skills from informal (non-certifying courses) and non-formal (gained by experience) skills. Even for formal qualifications, acquired during an Erasmus+ scholarship, recognition is not a given. The Parliament highlights these misgivings and calls for a stronger recognition of this issue.

AGE Platform Europe welcomes the Parliament report and its role in highlighting the importance of the Erasmus+ programme also for older citizens. Informal and non-formal education should have a greater role and its outcomes certified and recognised by a common framework, in order to value the rich experience of older workers. Erasmus+ has also an important role in supporting senior volunteering and therefore to develop active and thereby healthy ageing in Europe.

Read the report here.


Parliamentary Watch: the Parliament puts pressure on the Commission and Member States on poverty reduction

The Parliament has adopted a report on the Europe 2020 Strategy’s poverty target of reducing the number of people living in poverty between 2008 and 2020 by 20 million people.

The Parliament paints a gloomy picture of the situation of people living in poverty: the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion is set at 122.6 million, the number of long-term unemployed reaches 12 million. The Parliament highlights the plight especially of groups at a higher risk: older persons, the unemployed, one-parent families, low-income families, widows or widowers, the permanently ill, young people, people with disabilities and minorities.

Considering that more people live in poverty today than in 2008 and that households costs have risen, the Parliament asks for more action and commitment to fight poverty.

What is there for older persons?

First, the Parliament acknowledges the work that has already been established on reference budgets and calls for these budgets to be sensitive to differences throughout the life cycle and for differences between men and women. It also calls for an impact assessment of minimum income schemes. In terms of pension reforms, the Parliament calls for reforms in pension systems with an aim to guarantee an adequate level of pension incomes to fight against old age poverty.

The Parliament also links the problem of poverty to health inequalities. Life expectancy is dependent on experiences of poverty, especially if experienced at a very young age, it says. In this context, the Parliament notes that access to affordable health services has become an issue in the context of the crisis and underlines its concern that financial restrictions in the health sector could harm the long-term financial and organisational viability of the sector. It reaffirms its commitment to universal health care as a fundamental right.

To bring long-term unemployed to the labour market, the Parliament calls for action on recognising skills acquired informally, so that the experience of workers can be taken into account by the labour market and avoid long-term unemployment. To avoid that the Digital Single Market Strategy increases inequalities, the Parliament reminds that equal access to new technologies should be allowed for people at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

AGE highly welcomes this report that pinpoints many of the difficult situations that older people are living every day, locked between inadequate pension entitlements and rising costs for health care and housing. Especially the recent reduction of healthy life years is very worrying, as many people have to advance out-of-the-pocket payments for health services. This leads to the postponement of important consultations and check-ups, which might avoid the disease and related healthcare costs of many older people.

The increase of rates of poverty and social exclusion should be used as a warning call and trigger a stronger action by the EU and member states to fulfil the promise of poverty reduction that they have embarked on. A coherent strategy is needed to ensure that people at risk of poverty and social exclusion are not further left behind by the evolutions in housing and new technologies.

Read the Parliament’s report here.

Parliamentary Watch: MEP Eduard Kukan questions the EC on the implementation of the Employment Equality Directive

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) can submit written questions to the President of the European Council, the Council, the Commission or the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Last November, MEP Eduard Kukan submitted a question to the Commission on the implementation of the Employment Equality Directive, underlining that despite the Directive, age discrimination is still rampant in the labour market and has increased since the financial and economic crisis. Observed consequences were among others: gender pay and pension gaps, and long-term unemployment for older workers.

He therefore asked the Commission how it intensd to enforce the implementation of Directive in order to fight against persisting age discrimination in the labour market, and how it plans to encourage the employment of older women.

The Commission just sent its reply. It states it willingness to fight age discrimination, its efforts to monitor the situation in the Member States, but recalls that it is up to the Member States to transpose the Directive. Regarding employability of older workers, it replied that that gender gap aspects are part of the monitoring done in the context of the European Semester. In 2015, several Member States received country specific recommendations on improving family support services, work-life balance, skills upgrading, while others were encouraged to take steps to harmonise the retirement age between men and women.

Read more here.

Members of the Parliament call for the promotion of sports for active ageing

On 18 November 2015, Members of the European Parliament have called for a more active promotion of sports including for older persons. AGE Platform Europe and the Italian Kung-Fu Federation FIWUK have demonstrated how Tai Chi can be practiced by people of all ages, including while sitting.

201511 TaiChi Cocktail

Member of Parliament (MEP) Marian Harkin emphasised that sports are part of inclusion into society and that, therefore, promotion of sports is a fulfilment of article 25 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights that guarantees the right of older persons to live independently and in dignity. MEP Van Nistelrooij, Coordinator of the EP intergroup subgroup on active ageing and solidarity between generations, highlighted the important benefits to health of sports, including by preventing chronic diseases and preventing falls. Also Mr Tarabella, MEP outlined the work of the intergroup on sports in raising the importance of sports in the European agenda, including for intercultural exchange.

Vincenzo Drago, president of the Italian Federation of Wushu Kung Fu, explained the history of Tai Chi and gave information about an Erasmus+ project that his federation manages and that promotes Tai Chi for older persons and at the workplace. Two Tai Chi masters from Italy gave a demonstration of this Chinese martial art.

Member of the Parliament Alojz Peterle, Vice-President of the intergroup subgroup on active ageing and solidarity between generations, stressed also the ethical underpinning of Tai Chi, aimed at protecting the weaker. He underlined that with due regard to sports, growing older can be transformed into growing healthier. He also underlined that sports can help to reduce cancer

Mr Szabolcs Horvath from the European Commission outlined several actions that the European Commission has taken in the past to promote sports, also for the benefit of public health budgets and quality of life of older people. Actions of the EU include the European Week of Sports, organised for the first time in 2015, a 2013 Council Recommendation on health-enhancing physical activity and funding that is available for exchanges in sports through the Erasmus+ programme.

Mr Heinz K. Becker, Vice-President of the Parliament’s intergroup subgroup on active ageing and solidarity between generations highlighted the work of the Parliament on a report on the European dimension of sports. He stressed the importance of reducing corruption in sports, as this may put away many citizens from this. He also emphasised the importance of sports promotion and its role in reducing diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary-General of AGE Platform Europe, expressed that sports also have an important intergenerational dimension, as soft sports such as Tai Chi can be practiced by grandparents and children together. She also underlined that such a sport, included at the workplace, supports employability and motivation of workers.

Read the full report of the meeting here