Age discrimination is experienced in various ways, both directly and indirectly, and can take the form of legal or policy barriers, stereotypes, prejudice or harassment. It can be experienced as an individual or directed at a group. This presents a huge challenge for older people and it is at the root of many of the problems they face. They have to deal with challenges driven by negative imaging and stereotyping, and assumptions about their economic potential, productivity, skills, and income needs.
Such negative perceptions fail to acknowledge the enormous cultural, social and professional resource represented by older people and are unacceptable in the 21st century.
Age discrimination takes place in all spheres of life, in access to employment and in daily activities in access to goods and services.
Therefore, AGE Platform Europe calls on the candidate MEPs to:
1.1 Fight against age and multiple discrimination in all relevant policy processes, notably by unblocking the draft Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, proposed by the European Commission in 2008
Background: The European Commission explored the feasibility of extending equality legislation beyond employment and proposed in 2008 Draft directive (COM(2008) 426 final) to combat discrimination on the ground of age, disability, religion and sexual orientation outside employment. This proposal is still under discussion by Member States in the Council of Ministers. Unfortunately a small number of Member States are against this proposal and it is therefore blocked. This draft directive covers equal access to goods and services and is a major step forward in achieving a European Union free of discrimination. However it includes specific provisions (art 2.6 and 2.7) which would allow Member States to have a wide margin of appreciation of what could be considered justified differential treatment with regard to age in access to social protection, insurance and financial products.
AGE position: AGE is working with the different EU Presidencies to ensure that the wording of these paragraphs does not severely weaken the effective protection of older people by the EU law. For example, we have sent a letter to the Lithuanian Presidency regarding an amendment proposed by the Irish presidency about a new provision on preferential treatment by commercial actors for different age groups.
1.2 Enhance the protection of older persons’ human rights, in particular by ensuring the EP involvement in the drafting of the EU’s position within the framework of the UN Open-ended working group on ageing, providing thus the EU with a clear mandate by its citizens; call for the establishment of a EU multi-stakeholder dialogue group to discuss the rights of older persons
Background: Τhe Open-ended working group on ageing (OEWG), established by the UN General Assembly in 2010 is mandated to consider the international framework of the human rights of older persons and to identify possible gaps and how to best address them. Several UN countries and civil society are arguing for the need for a new UN Convention for older people. The EU, which is actively involved in this debate through its External Action Unit, is opposing to a new instrument. Although the EP has a particular expertise and plays a leading role in the promotion of human rights, so far it has not been engaged in the discussions around a strengthened protection of the rights of older persons at the EU and global level. The Human Rights Council also recently established an Independent Expert on the rights of older people (see the decision here). In its report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU in 2012, the EP called for greater involvement of EU institutions and improved multi-stakeholder dialogue on the challenges which older people face in the full application of their human rights.
AGE position: AGE members acknowledge that a lot of policies and legislation are age-blind and age discrimination and ageism are inherent to all aspects of life. For AGE a UN legal instrument such as a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons is needed to fully understand how existing human rights apply to older people and can be effectively enforced as part of the UN system (see AGE position here). Our action at the UN complements the work that we already do at the European level, both within the EU and the Council of Europe and we aim to improve synergies between actions at various levels. This is why we sent a letter to VP Reding, Mr. Lambrinidis and other EU stakeholders, including the AFET and DROI committees asking for the establishment of a multi-stakeholder dialogue group on the rights of older people arguing that there is currently a lack of consultation of EU institutions and civil society in this debate and a lack of coherence between EU’s internal and external action. This initiative will live up to EU’s commitment to protect the rights of all citizens, to bring the EU closer to its citizens and to increase its transparency.
1.3 Mainstream the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on the promotion of the human rights of older persons into the EP work
Background: Τhe Council of Europe (CoE) Drafting Group on the Human Rights of Older Persons (CDDH-AGE), completed its mandate in September 2013, delivering the Draft Recommendation on the Promotion of the Human Rights of Older Persons, which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers in February 2014. This soft law is an important step towards understanding the challenges that older persons face in the full enjoyment of their human rights and what Member States can do to address them.
AGE position: AGE has actively participated in the work of the CDDH-AGE bringing a pragmatic approach from the point of view of older persons. We now aim at a wide dissemination and implementation of this instrument, which will improve awareness of older people as equal rights holders and will strengthen the protection of their rights on the ground. The EP should take into account the rights enshrined in this text throughout its work and adequately address in studies, reports, resolutions, recommendations and legislative proposals issues that impede the full realisation of the human rights of older people on an equal basis with others. The EU should moreover consult older persons in all processes that affect them, a principle included in the CoE recommendation.
1.4 Monitor the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, bearing in mind the intersection of age and disability
Background: The EU has ratified the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD). In a letter addressed to AGE, Vice-President Reding has mentioned that “Given that the vulnerability of older persons to violation of their rights is often linked to disability that comes with ageing, the UNCRPD provides protection to the most vulnerable older people”. Besides, the UNCRPD committee has affirmed in a letter sent to the CDDH-AGE (see here) that the majority of older persons are considered as persons with disabilities for the purposes of the Convention, while the majority of persons with disabilities are in fact older persons. The EU should therefore take into account the intersection of age and disability in the implementation of the UNCRPD and address multiple discrimination that older persons with disabilities face.
AGE position: For AGE, although the UNCRPD does not include a specific provision on older persons, like it does with women and children, its implementation should take due account of the intersection of age and disability clarifying how it applies to the following 3 categories of older persons:
· Persons with disabilities as they age
· Older persons who acquire age-related disabilities
· Older people who may not experience disabilities but are discriminated by others due to perceptions that they face disabilities due to their age
By not specifically addressing how the UNCRPD applies to age-related disabilities we risk creating two standards of protection based on when disability occurs. In fact many EU Member States currently have different systems of protection for younger and older persons with disabilities. The EP should work to ensure that the UNCRPD implementation at EU and national level is not age-blind.
For more information, you may read AGE brochure Active Senior Citizens for Europe, p. 13, 26 and 51.
1.5 Enhance gender equality in access to financial and insurance products, in particular through the monitoring of the implementation by insurers of the EU rules on gender-neutral pricing (ECJ ruling C-236/09 on Test-Achats)
Background: The EU’s highest Court ruled in 2011 on the Test-Achats case (C-236/09) that different insurance premiums for women and men are not compatible with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. As of 21 December 2012, no further differentiations in insurance premiums and benefits for women and men are permitted in the EU. The Commission adopted end of 2011 Guidelines on the application of Council Directive 2004/113/EC to insurance, in the light of this judgment and is expected to present in 2014 a report on the implementation of the directive on equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services.
AGE position: In collaboration with the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), AGE is fighting discrimination against older women in access to financial services and promotes gender equality in private pension and savings schemes. We aim for an effective implementation of the directive and the ECJ ruling so that women no longer suffer from less favourable conditions in private pension schemes compared to men. The EP has an important role to play as a watchdog of how EU legislation is applied in practice by the Member States and propose ways to address implementation and protection gaps.
1.6 Improve the image of older people and promote a more positive vision of ageing in the EP work, e.g. calling for action to combat age stereotypes in the media
Background: Despite the fact that older people are healthier and live active and productive lives for much longer, stereotypes about older people and old age die hard and affect every aspect of seniors’ lives. Ageism is prevalent in the image that the media give of older people while it is still very common in publicity advertising to picture older people in a negative way.
AGE position: AGE members consider that the media should take an approach to ageing that shows older people as they really are (some are highly competent achievers; others face huge challenges to remain active due to poor health, poverty or social exclusion) and that avoids negative stereotypes or raising conflicting issues between generations. Building on the achievements of the European Year 2012 on active ageing and solidarity between generations (EY2012), the EP should promote a positive image for ageing, support initiatives aiming to create a society for all ages and call for action to combat age stereotypes in the media.
1.7 Monitor the situation of the most vulnerable groups of older people such as older women, older persons with disabilities, older migrants, ethnic and religious minorities; including Roma, older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersexual (LGBTI), older people experiencing poverty and disadvantage, and older people in isolated rural communities
Background: The discrimination that older men and women face is complex, often based on two or more factors, such as age and gender, ethnic origin, disability, poverty, sexual orientation and other factors. For instance, according to a recent FRA survey, older Roma women face more health inequalities than other groups. The particular challenges of these vulnerable EU citizens often remain invisible to EU policymakers.
AGE position: On the occasion of the European Year 2012 on active ageing and solidarity between generations (EY2012), AGE in collaboration with other non-discrimination networks has launched a series of policy papers on the challenges of older persons at risk of multiple discrimination, providing specific recommendations to the EU and national level. The EP should address the difficulties faced by the most vulnerable older persons in accessing their fundamental rights in EP reports and legislative initiatives.