5. Age-friendly labour markets and economy

EU labour markets are increasingly faced with the challenges of globalisation, rapid technological progress and population ageing. The social and economic consequences of the crisis add to these challenges and call for an adaptation of existing working arrangements to facilitate labour market participation among older workers.

There is a need for new structures and approaches in society to adapt to the increasing number of older workers and to enable them to remain active on the labour market. Negative cultural attitudes and age discrimination towards older workers need to be addressed.

Therefore, AGE Platform Europe calls on the candidate MEPs to:

5.1  Improve the reconciliation between private and working lives, in particular by proposing a EU Directive on carers’ leave for workers with informal care duties

Background: The EU tries to tackle the obstacles which older workers face to remaining in or re-entering employment including pressures to balance their professional lives with caring duties for family members. The Joint Employment Report (JER) reviews the employment situation in the EU and labour market related policies. It encourages Member States to apply the four Employment Guidelines relating to labour market participation, qualifications, education and poverty. The main issues for older people in the JER include work-life balance

AGE position: To date insufficient attention has been paid to supporting older informal carers – who are largely women aged 50+ – and AGE welcomes the current reflections going on at EU level on a possible legislative proposal for carers’ leave. Such provisions are needed in the context of demographic ageing and cuts in social budgets, where large numbers of older workers are faced with family duties to provide care to elderly parents and young grandchildren, yet nothing is done to help them remain in the labour market.

For more information you may read AGE brochure Active Senior Citizens for Europe, p. 30

 

5.2  Improve the working conditions for all age groups by supporting a new EU Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health at Work 2014-2020

Background: Since 2002 the EU has fulfilled its political role in the area of Occupational Safety and Health by means of multi-annual Strategies formally endorsed by the Commission after consultations, and voluntarily implemented by Member States and stakeholders. Two strategies on health and safety at work have been adopted so far, the first in 2002, covering the period until 2006, the second in 2007 for the period until 2012. The 2007-2012 Strategy set an ambitious goal for all Member States: to reduce accidents at work by 25 %. In addition, a number of specific objectives were identified, such as better implementing the EU regulatory framework on occupational safety and health, adaptation of the framework to changes in the workplace, development of coherent national strategies adjusted to the specific context of each Member State and promotion of a preventive culture addressing all parts of society. Results of the evaluation of the 2007-2012 strategy have been published and suggest that a post-2012 framework is needed, as all EU Member States face similar challenges. Despite official call from the EP and a public consultation launched last May 2013, a new EU Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health at Work for the period 2014-2020 has not been published yet.

AGE position: AGE considers that an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) framework at EU level is necessary because health and safety at work is such a wide-ranging issue with short and long term effects, affecting the lives of the majority of people living in the EU. Retaining the over 50s at work is becoming increasingly important and the new OSH strategy should identify new risks attributable to the changing economic and social environment and to those associated with new technologies and demographic trends. AGE considers that there remains scope for improvement in a future strategy, in particular in terms of the integration and coordination with other relevant policy areas and between the various actors involved at the EU level, such as enhanced coordination with DG Health and Consumers.  There also continue to be a number of important issues which need to be addressed with regard to workers of all ages including ergonomics, accidents’ prevention, occupational diseases as well as specific health and safety concerns related to cognitive and physical changes affecting ageing workers.

For more information on AGE position, please read AGE reply to the European Commission consultation here.

 

5.3  Support quality stable jobs for older workers, including older women, and call for action to facilitate transitions between jobs and from work to retirement

Background: To support Member States in their efforts to achieve Europe 2020 Strategy’s full employment objectives, the European Employment Strategy (EES) provides a set of measures that support and co-ordinate Member State’s employment policies. The EES seeks to create more and better jobs throughout the EU, and to help certain disadvantaged groups such as women, older workers and the long-term unemployed, remain or return in the labour market. In particular, older women face many disadvantages on the labour market impacting on their pension rights and putting them at a higher risk of poverty than men. They also face severe challenges in balancing employment and caring activities.

AGE position: With the crisis, the number of older workers who lost their jobs and have been unable to regain employment has grown considerably. AGE believes that we need to facilitate the re-entry of these older workers into the labour market if the EU is to benefit from the skills and experience they hold. Older workers must be given the choice to participate in training opportunities, to continue to work or to phase their retirement, etc. while employers need to be supported to address skills shortages in response to demographic pressures and to launch initiatives that take a broad approach to promoting intergenerational cooperation and solidarity in the workplace.

For more information you may read AGE brochure Active Senior Citizens for Europe, p. 29-30

 

5.4  Promote the business case for age diversity at work, notably as a tool to fight against both youth and older workers’ unemployment

Background: The European Commission has encouraged employers to put diversity management more firmly on their strategic business agendas while also supporting their activities across the EU through numerous actions over the last few years. The EC-funded ‘Business Case for Diversity’ project aimed at showing that diversity management – whereby employers recognise, value and include women and men of different ages, abilities, ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation – makes good business sense. It constituted a key tool in helping to promote the acceptance, appreciation and integration of diversity within the corporate culture. It focuses on: support for voluntary initiatives; building understanding of what is involved for enterprises; increasing awareness of the business benefits to be gained; coordinating the various diversity initiatives within the EU.

AGE position: AGE believes that actions are needed to increase older workers’ employment rate. Specific initiatives and incentives should be developed to encourage employers to hire and retain them. It is important to keep older workers active in employment for longer not only because the workplace benefits from the valuable skills and competences they hold but because their continued employment helps generate taxes which are necessary for the long-term sustainability of our pensions, health care and other social services. Building the case for age diversity at work is a strong tool to demonstrate the value of older workers and the key role they play for knowledge transfers to the younger generation, doing so supporting the fight against youth unemployment.

 

5.5  Use the knowledge, experience and know-how of older generations by promoting intergenerational learning and exchange at work

Background: Article 3.3 of the Lisbon Treaty states that the Union “shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.” Governments all over the EU are promoting longer working lives to help reduce the demographic pressure on public budgets and support greater solidarity between generations. However, the inclusiveness of the labour market has been increasingly challenged since the crisis started. Younger and older workers are the first ones to be made redundant in case of restructuration.

AGE position: Demographic ageing calls for longer careers for older people but raises the issue of access to employment for younger cohorts, and implications of work careers on pension rights, for instance example for women who carry most often the burden of care responsibilities. How then best reconcile needs and requests of different age groups on the labour market which can be sometimes contradictory. Optimisation of individual experience, knowledge and skills seems to be one of the best solutions. This calls for mixed age teams with complementary skills and intergenerational transmission of know-how. AGE strongly supports intergenerational occupational learning as a key aspect of the development of age-friendly working labour markets and work places. This allows better integration of all generations at work while valuing everyone’s experience. Many positive initiatives are running across the EU which need to be replicated.

 

5.6  Foster informal and non-formal learning for people of all ages in order to facilitate their active participation in both paid and unpaid work

Background: Organising and funding education and lifelong learning are Member State responsibilities. However the EU supports Member States’ action to help them contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy’s overall EU economic and social objectives. The Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) is the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training that builds on its predecessor, the “Education and Training 2010” (ET 2010) work programme. The Europe 2020 Strategy acknowledges lifelong learning and skills development as key elements in response to the current economic crisis, to demographic ageing and to the broader economic and social strategy of the European Union. Moreover, The New Skills for New Jobs initiative set out to promote better anticipation of future skills needs, develop better matching between skills and labour market needs and bridge the gap between the worlds of education and work.

AGE position: Adult learning provides a means of up-skilling or reskilling those affected by unemployment, restructuring and career transitions. It also makes an important contribution to social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development.

AGE welcomes the EC Communication on “Flagship Initiative on New Skills for New Jobs”’s call for specific priority to be given to the skills upgrading of older workers who are at particular risk of losing their jobs in economic restructuring processes and for targeted approaches to be adopted to help such workers who are potentially more vulnerable. Education and training are a vital means to improving skill levels for workers of all ages who find themselves out of a job. All EU citizens, irrespective of age, should have the opportunity to acquire and develop the mix of knowledge, skills and aptitudes they need to succeed in the labour market. AGE would also support an initiative for targeted efforts to promote basic digital literacy for those with least access to ICT which includes some groups of older people.

AGE calls for support for an adequate budget for the new Erasmus+ programme and to ensure that it will include support to activities in favour of older adult learners.

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