AGE participates in Peer Review on Modernising and activating measures relating to work incapacity
On 4-5 February, Nicole Legrain, member of AGE’s Employment Expert Group participated in the last of the 2009 series of Peer Reviews on Modernising and activating measures relating to work incapacity. Nicole presented AGE’s contribution where she highlighted the importance of mobilising the human capital which exists among older workers for the long-term sustainability of Europe’s social protection systems, and ensuring that the current and upcoming older generations can continue to work and contribute to society.
A greater awareness of the enormous professional ressource that older people present and a more positive image of what they have to offer as valuable members of Europe’s labour force must be promoted and policies are needed to support a more active transition period between paid employment and old age dependency. It is important to ensure an environment (both physical and psychological) that provides opportunities for older people to remain actively involved in society through their work and to be able to choose to work beyond retirement age. Improving working conditions for them requires a fully integrated and comprehensive stratgey combining actions to create quality jobs for older workers and providing incentives and support for those seeking work with changing the attitudes of managers to ensure they engage and value older people and remove discriminatory barriers to their participation in the workplace.
The many positive aspects of employing older workers such as lower staff turnover, greater dependability and the benefit of their accummulated experience need to be emphasised and more widely acknowledged. Evidence shows that worker productivity does not decrease with age because declining physical capacity is compensated for by qualities and skills acquired through experience. AGE believes that what is needed to raise the employment rate of older workers is the introduction of more flexibility into employment contracts to suit their changing lives which enable them to reconcile their work and family duties and help maintain their physical and mental health, as well as skills development through lifelong learning and intergenerational mentoring which provide them with opportunities to pass on their knowledge and experience, make them feel valued and help to break down barriers between the age groups.
AGE considers that real gains are to be made not by forcing people to wait longer (often in unemployment or on incapacity benefit) before receiving their pensions, but in enabling people to work productively as long as they wish and then move into a productive and active retirement period which may include paid employment. The main aim of active ageing policies should be to make the labour market age neutral and age friendly, diverse and vibrant. It is important to remember that older people seeking work often have very different motivations and approaches to work compared with many who are unemployed and hard to place in employment. Many older people who have had successful working lives are keen to return to work, enjoy using the skills and knowledge they have acquired, appreciate work for the social contact it provides and, in the context of the current crisis, may also need to work for financial reasons.
While it is true that health problems and disabilities are important reasons for early exit from the labour force, it is important to ensure that the individuals affected can access state benefits when they have a legitimate claim. Provision of information on acess to rights needs to be improved. AGE believes there is a need to clarify who is eligible for disability benefits and the process to claim them which should be possible through a simple procedure and the assistance of a one-stop-shop. AGE is concerned about the situation of older workers on long-term sick leave who are legitimate claimants of disability benefits but whose expectation for a successful return to the labour market is very low. Support measures should be implemented to help them back to work in jobs adapted to their capacitities but not to force them into poor quality jobs. This will release financial costs, prevent these people from social inclusion, worsening health and diminishing self-esteem, and will contribute to social cohesion.
AGE belives that to activate a greater labour market participation among older workers, several dimensions need to be simultaneously addressed and that a closer cooperation is needed between the employment, social affairs and health sectors. Social protection systems need to be adopted to enable older workers to remain at work for longer but this should not be done by reducing their rights.
Please click here for information on the Peer Reviews on Social Protection and Social Inclusion.
Please also find below the link to the project ’Optimising Strategies for Integrating People with Disabilities into Work’ (Opti-Work) at: http://www.optiwork.org/
The specific information on the recruitment threshold for employers (incl. the results of the survey with employers per country) can be found by clicking ’about Opti-work’ / deliverables / work package 4: Report on National Employer Threshold Tool Profiles’ (or for the direct link:http://www.optiwork.org/documents/Report_on_National_Employer_Threshold_Tool_Profiles_D4.pdf).