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.’

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: 

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,

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”