Parliamentary Watch: calling for a culture of prevention at the workplace

The European Commission has released the Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020 in late 2014. The framework put the emphasis on non-legislative actions to reach out to small and medium-sized enterprises, explore new and emerging risks such as psycho-social conditions or exposure to new materials and the exchange of practices. The new Juncker Commission has announced a ‘refit’ exercise for health and safety regulation, meaning it will be reviewed with the aim of simplification. Doubts are cast by trade unions that this might mean a reduction of safety standards. The Commission’s view is that legislation can be simplified without lowering protection.

In its reaction, the European Parliament highlighted that lower protection for workers is not acceptable, but that ‘improving the quality’ of the regulatory framework is positive.  The Parliament asked that new and emerging risks such as nanomaterials, musculoskeletal disorders are included. On psycho-social disorders, the Parliament called for systematic monitoring of stress, burnout and depression and for specific programmes that should develop recommendations on these risks.

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament called on the Commission and the Member States to design appropriate policies to address the ageing of the workforce and considered sound health and safety rules as a way to provide healthy work environments throughout people’s working life and enabling them to work up to statutory retirement age. It stressed the importance of preventive policies and workplace health promotion, as a way to foster a ‘culture of prevention’ starting already with apprenticeships.

The Parliament also called for more attention to be paid to groups of workers, such as domestic workers who often operate outside of all health and safety frameworks. All occupational health and safety measures should include a gender dimension, it said, looking at the specific risks of women and at sectors where the workforce is predominantly composed of women.

AGE view

AGE Platform Europe has repeatedly called for comprehensive health and safety policies, including legislative obligations for employers, as a way to promote health prevention of risks. Occupational health and safety rules have a key role to create the physical and mental capacity to cope with longer working lives, and therefore are also key to the success of pension reforms. The gender aspects and new forms of risks have to be taken as seriously as traditional risks that are already enshrined in legislation.

Read the full report here.

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Parliamentary Watch: European Parliament’s reaction on long-term unemployment

The Commission has released in October a proposal aimed to better integrate long-term unemployed into the labour market. According to current statistics, around 5 % of the EU active population is long-term unemployed. The problem is higher for older workers, as long-term unemployed constitute 63% all unemployed between 55 and 65, and many do not figure in the statistics as they do not declare themselves as unemployed.

The European Parliament welcomed the Commission’s proposal to improve services for long-term unemployed, also highlighting some of the shortfalls of the proposal. The Parliament’s concerns are that a more decisive measure would have been preferrable, that individual needs assessments need to be elaborated much earlier than at 18 months of unemployment and that all actors, including NGOs, working with unemployed should work together.

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament recalls that long-term unemployment often have negative long-term consequences for employment prospects, career progress, earnings profiles and pensions.

It also underlined that skills maintenance in the event of job loss, together with education, training and reskilling that anticipate future skills needs, is an important element in avoiding and redressing long-term unemployment.

AGE views

AGE welcomes the proposal from the Commisison, however AGE is concerned that it is not sufficient to make a distinctive difference. Individual assessments should be conducted much before 18 months of unemployment, as the distance from the labour market grows with the time. Also, life-long learning facilities should be provided as well as in-work trainings for workers of all ages – often, these are no longer available for workers from a certain age, due to age discrimination. Long-term unemployment is a waste of skills and experience that could be used to benefit companies, younger workers and society as a whole.

Read the full report here.

Parliamentary Watch: developing senior tourism in Europe

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the importance of tourism is recognised at EU level. Article 195 of the EU Treaty indeed offers the possibility to take European or multinational actions while respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the competence of the Member States.

The Commission has given new impetus to tourism policy with a main initiative undertaken in 2010, the Communication ‘Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination a new political framework for tourism in Europe’ which has set out a new consolidated policy framework and an action plan for tourism. With 21 actions, the Commission set itself a very ambitious objective against the background of a desirable contribution to growth and employment in Europe.

The European Parliament asked the Commission to deliver a comprehensive implementation report on actions taken, including the use of financial resources, in the frame of this initiative.

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament recognised several times in its report the relevance of addressing specific needs, notably those of older persons, when developing touristic products.

It welcomed the Calypso social tourism initiative, which allows seniors, young people, people on lower incomes and people with disabilities to go on holidays outside the high season and stressed that this initiative has the potential to overcome the problem of seasonality, particularly in less well-known destinations.

It called to strengthen the ‘tourism for all’ principle which allows and empowers people, particularly those with specific needs (such as people with disabilities or reduced mobility, young people, the elderly, low-income families, and families with children), to enjoy their rights as citizens, and to make it the reference for any national, regional, local or European tourism-related action.

Last but not least, it underlined the need to place particular emphasis on the use of new technologies when developing tourism concepts for senior citizens and people with specific disabilities.

Read the full report here.

MEPs submit a Written Declaration on access to hearing aids

What is a written declaration?

A written declaration is a text of a maximum of 200 words relating exclusively on a matter falling within the competence of the European Union.

At least 10 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from at least three political groups may, as authors, submit a written declaration by presenting a text to be signed by their colleagues. They have then three months to let it signed by a majority of the MEPs. If they succeed, the written declaration is published in the minutes and forwarded to the EU Institutions named in the text, together with the names of the signatories. Declarations that, at the end of the three month period, have not been signed by at least half the MEPs lapse. Even if successful, written declarations do not bind Parliament, that is, they cannot be considered as an act of the Parliament representing its position, but only those of its authors and signatories.

Written Declaration on access to hearing aids

Referring to the Articles 5 and 26 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and submitted by 10 MEPs, this Declaration calls on the Commission and the Council to foster cooperation and the exchange of best practices regarding the provision of state-funded access to hearing aids with a view to improving the lives of citizens suffering from hearing loss in the EU.

Read the declaration here.

Read our previous post on the Written Declaration on Alzheimer’s Disease and dignity at the end of life here.

MEPs submit Written Declarations on Alzheimer’s disease and dignity at the end of life

MEPs have recently submitted two written declarations linked to population ageing.

What is a written declaration?

A written declaration is a text of a maximum of 200 words relating exclusively on a matter falling within the competence of the European Union.

At least 10 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from at least three political groups may, as authors, submit a written declaration by presenting a text to be signed by their colleagues. They have then three months to let it signed by a majority of the MEPs. If they succeed, the written declaration is published in the minutes and forwarded to the EU Institutions named in the text, together with the names of the signatories. Declarations that, at the end of the three month period, have not been signed by at least half the MEPs lapse. Even if successful, written declarations do not bind Parliament, that is, they cannot be considered as an act of the Parliament representing its position, but only those of its authors and signatories.

Written Declaration on Alzheimer’s disease

This declaration submitted by 24 MEPs invites the European Commission and the Council to recognize Alzheimer and related diseases as a public health priority in Europe and to adopt a comprehensive strategy to address those diseases. This would include promoting the research on sustainable treatment solutions, improving the efficient provision of information and supporting carers.

Read the written declaration here.

Written Declaration on dignity at the end of life

Referring the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (art. 35) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU – art. 6(a), 9 and 168) which confer competences on the Union to coordinate or complement the actions of EU member states in the protection and improvement of public health, the signatory MEPs call on the European Commission and the Council to identify best practices across the European Union with regard to the provision of end-of-life health services and to facilitate the exchange of those practices between EU countries.

Read the written declaration here.

UN Day 2015 on the rights of older persons – MEPs call on the EU to take ambitious measures to protect the rights of older persons

On the occasion of the UN Day on the rights of older persons, Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament Intergroup on Active ageing, solidarity between generations and family issues, underline the need for the EU to launch long-awaited actions to protect the growing number of older persons from age discrimination.

Today, we mark the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP). What would I wish our seniors? I wish for our seniors to live in a Europe free of prejudice and stereotypes. We have to work to remove discriminatory measures from all walks of life. This also means educating different generations in our societies to cooperate”, called MEP Eduard Kukan, Vice-President of the Intergroup and rapporteur European Parliament’s assessment of the European Year 2012 on active ageing and intergenerational solidarity.

According to MEP Alojz Peterle, Vice-President of the Intergroup, “on the International Day of Older Persons we mark the contributions of seniors to our society, but it is also a time to examine issues that affect their lives”.We must ensure that older persons have the right to live their lives with dignity and the right to pursue independent living where possible and to access to adequate and sustainable pensions”, said MEP Marian Harkin, Vice-President of the Intergroup.

Older citizens in the EU are indeed facing increasing challenges to enjoy their human rights. The new study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) “LTC protection for older persons: A review of coverage deficits in 46 countries” highlights a serious lack of social protection – including in many EU countries – for older persons in need of long-term care, resulting in age and gender discrimination and a high risk of poverty, social exclusion and abuse in old age.

The EU has therefore the duty to use the existing instruments, such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and to take an ambitious stand at the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, in order to protect its senior citizens from discrimination and help them lead independent and dignified lives, as described in the EP report on the situation of fundamental rights in EU 2013 – 2014.

To strengthen the rights of older persons, two important aspects need to be implemented: full political codetermination of representatives of the older generation on all decisive levels and the priority for prevention in our health systems, which means health promotion before “reparation“, underlined MEP Heinz K. Becker, Vice-President of the Intergroup.

Moreover, MEPs stressed the importance of investing in innovative solutions and strengthening solidarity between generations, as the way to build inclusive and cohesive societies “where older people can play an important role, for example by improving the quality of life in the Community by volunteering or volunteering alongside younger people passing on skills & expertise while also learning”, Marian Harkin added.

Lambert van Nistelrooij, Coordinator and Vice-President of the Intergroup Active Ageing also underlined “the role that innovative technology plays in contributing to the creation of more age-inclusive environments. We have to close the digital divide. In the ageing society there are opportunities for “design for all” products and services for all ages. There is also a role for public authorities, the cities and regions to foster the full rights of older persons”.

The Vice-Presidents of the Intergroup in charge of active ageing therefore welcome the recent adoption of the EP report on the implementation of the European Year 2012 on Active ageing and solidarity between Generations, and commit to work on strengthening older people’s rights in EU actions, the delivery of an ambitious and inclusive Silver Economy strategy, the support to the upcoming Covenant on demographic change, and the promotion of good practices in the field of intergenerational solidarity.

I also wish our seniors to live their lives to the full extend, in an environment conducive to their needs. Our older generation, with their life experience, is an important added value to the European society. And it should be treated as such“, Eduard Kukan concluded.

Parliamentary Watch: looking at the implementation of the European Year 2012 on active ageing and solidarity between generations

The very first European Year, in 1983, was dedicated to small business (“SMEs”) and craft industry. Every year since, the EU has chosen a specific subject to encourage debate and dialogue within and between European countries. 2012 was dedicated to active ageing and solidarity between generations. AGE Platform Europe coordinated then the stakeholders’ coalition and was an active actor of the Year. Three years later, the European Parliament worked on the implementation report and adopted an own report on the Year’s outcomes and follow-up.

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament welcomes that the Year has been the occasion to underline that older people are not a burden on the economy and society, but rather – through their experience, their achievements and their knowledge – an asset.

In the report, MEPs consider it very important that the initiatives launched as part of EY 2012 are followed up and transformed into a strong political commitment followed by concrete action to ensure social inclusion, active participation and the well-being of all generations, and to combat and prevent discrimination in all spheres of life.

If MEPs underline the challenge of unemployment among older workers, they also reject the consideration of active ageing policies solely as an instrument to maintain the employability of older workers, but rather as the process of optimising opportunities for health and for participation in society in order to ensure that people can retain a good standard of living and quality of life as they age.

Moreover, they urge the Commission and Member States to:

  • develop and maintain people-oriented and demand-driven public support, universal assistance and care services
  • promote and strengthen high-quality public infrastructure for older persons (homes, day centres and home support), with the latter being active participants rather than passive recipients of the initiatives in which they take part
  • adopt a European strategy on dementia
  • adopt an Action Plan on elder abuse
  • offer opportunities for life-long learning and promote intergenerational training and transfer of knowledge at work
  • ensure sustainability of public pension schemes and to guarantee individual and adequate pension income and rights for all to ensure a dignified life in old age – including those who have taken justified career breaks
  • develop an inclusive Digital Single Market strategy by ensuring that accessibility is mainstreamed throughout the strategy and linked with the promotion of the ‘silver economy’ in Europe
  • release the long-awaited European Accessibility Act to ensure that transport, housing and ICT-based products and services, are accessible to older persons
  • improve the accessibility and interoperability of transport systems

The Parliament also supports the work done at UN level on the rights of older persons, the upcoming Covenant on demographic change, WHO work on age-friendly environments and the Active Ageing index.

Furthermore, MEPs stress that reliable statistics on the situation of older people and on demographic change are needed to develop better targeted and effective active ageing strategies and called on the Commission to ensure comprehensive high-quality data collection on the societal status of older people, their health, rights and standard of living.

Last but not least, the report lists different sources of European funding usable in the field of active ageing and calls on Member States to use them to follow-up on the momentum created by the Year.

To read the full report, click here.