January 2021 - Commission launches debate on possible European solutions to deal with ageing population - Agence Europe
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS - SOCIETAL ISSUES / DEMOGRAPHY
Commission launches debate on possible European solutions to deal with ageing population
Brussels, 27/01/2021 (Agence Europe)
How can we “[tap] the full potential” of an ageing European society? How can we anticipate and respond to the socio-economic impacts of this ageing process? The European Commission launched a 12-week public consultation on Wednesday 27 January to obtain answers to these questions.
On the basis of the contributions received, the institution undertakes to examine “possible measures to strengthen Member States’ and regions’ efforts to address ageing issues”.
A green paper giving a detailed assessment of this demographic trend was also presented on Wednesday to fuel the debate
The Commission recalls, first of all, that life expectancy at birth has increased by about 10 years over the last 50 years and estimates that by 2070 the proportion of people over 80 years of age is expected to double.
These trends, the institution explains, will have repercussions on growth, fiscal sustainability, health systems, and welfare and social cohesion.
The green paper therefore focuses in particular on the challenges facing the EU. One of the main sources of concern identified is the decline in the European working age population: this trend is expected to continue while the total population remains constant. The risk of labour shortages, in fact, is increasing.
“The EU and its Member States should promote policies that bring more people into the labour market, enable longer working lives and improve productivity”, advocates the Commission.
As life expectancy increases, people will have to work longer to keep pension levels at an adequate level, the Commission continues.
“We do not recommend any retirement age. It is the competence of the Member States, the decision belongs to them, but we want to open this debate”, the Vice-President of the Commission responsible for Demography, Dubravka Šuica, told the press.
On the health front, the green paper also highlights the challenge of ensuring that long-term care remains accessible, affordable and of high quality for all, as the use of informal carers will be increasingly compromised.
The number of people likely to need long-term care in the EU is projected to rise to 23.6 million in 2030 and to 30.5 million in 2050.
“These are very important points, but we need to move beyond that as well. Of course, there are things to be improved, but there are things to be welcomed”, qualifies Julia Wadoux, policy coordinator at AGE Platform Europe, however.
Never before have so many Europeans lived so long, the Commission states again. And this must also be considered “a success”, insists Ms Wadoux.
She therefore welcomes the fact that the institution is taking into consideration the “new perspectives” offered by ageing.
Although it is mainly a question of cohesion and intergenerational solidarity, the positive prospects put forward by the Commission are primarily economic in nature. The “silver economy”—i.e., the demand for products and services reflecting the specific needs of older people—offers opportunities for the Union, the green paper says. This economy is expected to grow by about 5% per year, from €3.7 billion in 2015 to €5.7 billion in 2025.
“Older people today are also part of the solution”, Ms Wadoux says. “In order to fully exploit the potential of this initiative”, AGE Platform Europe therefore stresses in a press release “the importance of ensuring that the consultation reaches everyone, including older people on the ground, including those who are furthest removed from mainstream society”.
What to expect next? The Commission’s prerogatives on the subject are limited, but Ms Wadoux is at least counting on the publication of a white paper. She also hopes that the Commission will not rely solely on the Member States and will place greater emphasis in the future on respect for the rights of older people.
Consult the green paper: https://bit.ly/3t3lgYw (Original version in French by Agathe Cherki)