European Day of Solidarity between Generations 2017: focus on sustainable employment and work-life balance

In the current context of high youth unemployment and of reforms aiming to rise the pensionable age across the European Union, AGE seizes the momentum of the European Day of Solidarity between Generations to highlight the key role of intergenerational solidarity and cooperation as a way to promote the employment of both young and older people and address some of the challenges deriving from demographic change.

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The European Commission has identified employment as one of its main priorities for the 2015-2019 period to put Europe on the path of economic recovery after the global economic and financial crisis. This echoes citizens’ concern, as a recent European survey on the Future of Europe (Special Eurobarometer 451) pointed out unemployment as being perceived by Europeans (45% of the respondents) as the main challenge faced by the European Union.

With only about one in two people between 55 and 64 being in employment and the huge existing gender gap in the employment of older workers, there remains a lot to be done to effectively promote longer professional lives for both men and women, one of the key objectives of EU policies to make our protection system sustainable in an ageing Europe.
 

“Promoting age diversity at the workplace is a matter of coherence in a European Union that asks its citizens to work longer”, points out Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary General in our press release sent to mark the EU Day.
 

In that context, developing life-cycle approaches at the workplace, which ensure healthy working environments at all stages of life and foster interaction, cooperation and solidarity between the different age groups, can help to keep older people in employment for longer and to transfer knowledge and experience. Skills transfers can happen both ways, from younger to older and from older to younger people, and inside or outside the labour market.

Measures aimed at promoting work-life balance are key in that respect and often lead to “win-win” situations. They can support longer working careers, and so contribute to the sustainability of pension systems, while helping senior workers to take care of older dependent relatives - thus reducing public health costs - or of grandchildren - thus supporting young parents’ professional careers.

The European Commission has quite recently made concrete proposals in that direction with the release of its European Pillar of Social Rights, which recognizes the right to work-life balance and proposes a 5-day annual leave to workers in charge of dependent relatives. It furthermore recognizes a right to ‘active support in employment’ which no longer refers to conditionality of unemployment benefits, as well as a right to long-term care, to develop indicators on the quality, availability and affordability of long-term care, and to promote investment into care using European funds and the European Semester. The provision of care is an important precondition to allow older people to continue working, as their older relatives are in need for care and assistance. (Read more in this article)

A series of measures that need to be implemented to improve the “ability of workers of all ages to stay in the labour market, healthy and active until the legal retirement age” have been outlined in the European social partners’ framework agreement on active ageing and an intergenerational approach released last month and presented at a breakfast debate that we organised at the European Parliament together with the European Parliament Intergroup on Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity together with the EPP and ALDE groups to mark the EU Day of Solidarity between Generations.

Those proposals are in line with AGE recommendations on access to employment highlighted in our response to the launch of the European Pillar of Social Rights sent to the European Commission in December 2016. We were very pleased to see that the main points raised in our response were taken on board in the last version of the EU Pillar of Social Rights proposed by the Commission, rewarding the collective work carried out with our members and with other social NGOS of the Social Platform to influence the Pillar.

 

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