Joint Employment Report: main developments for older people in the EU

The Joint Employment Report is a document put forward by the European Commission and highlights the main developments in the economic and social situation of member states in 2018. This marks the start of the 2019 European Semester cycle. The Commission highlights positive developments in most domains, with the exception of the impact of social transfers on poverty and social exclusion. Nevertheless, differences persist in the social situation of member states, with drawbacks for specific vulnerable groups such as children, women, migrant, disable people and older persons.

Rising employment rates for older workers, but higher involuntary part-time work

According to the European Commission, the current positive economic growth, which characterized the EU in the last six years, offers the right opportunity to stimulate further the attention posed on improving inclusiveness, resilience, social protection and fairness of labour markets in the EU. In 2018, there were 239 million people employed, accounting for 72.9% of the EU population. This marks progress towards the Europe 2020 target of reaching 75% rate of employment in the EU, except for Greece, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus, where unemployment rates are far below the average.

In 2017, older workers (aged 55-64) reported the highest increase in employment compared to all the other main groups, with almost 7 million new citizens employed between 2013 and 2018, playing an important role in the job recovery after the crisis. The employment rate for women of the same age group is growing faster than for men – however, there are still about half of older women who were not in employment in 2016. Although the gender gap in the career length is declining, women are still disadvantaged in working life. Women’s careers are on average, of 4.9 years shorter than men’s, with serious consequences on their pension entitlements – the gender gap in pensions is still at 37%.

The result of higher employment can be partly attributed to the achievements made in guarantying better healthcare access, increased availability of flexible working times and active ageing strategies across the EU. An increase in statutory retirement age also raised the duration of working lives. However, increase in number of hours worked was lower compared to the number of people employed, with high rates of citizens forced into unwanted part-times and increased requests of flexible working conditions. Although some member states started to provide financial incentives for both employees and employers to invest further in solutions supporting flexible transitions into retirement, the process is slow.

Further, low skilled people and older workers are significantly less likely to participate in adult learning programmes than the average, with negative impacts on their social inclusion and productivity. Member States are trying to adapt their skills development systems, with the aim of simplifying qualifications and recognition of degrees in the EU and promoting learning outside the institutional context. However, more than 40% of adults in the EU do not have basic digital skills with rates reaching 70% in certain member states, producing a high burden on productivity and social exclusion. The framework on adult skills and learning identified guidance in the process of learning as a key factor for stimulating learning later in life. Similarly, people with disability are more likely to be excluded from the labour market compared to the average and they would benefit the most from training and learning activities.

Demographic change, consequences on healthcare

The ratio between persons 25-65 years-old and persons older than 65 will reach 50% by 2050, meaning that there will be 2 people in the workforce for one considered outside. Therefore, the need of adapting pensions and to increase fiscal sustainability are important issues in the eyes of Commission and member States.

Moreover, life expectancy is increasing faster than healthy life expectancy, producing higher demand and costs on healthcare and long-term care systems. Achieving efficacy and efficiency in the delivery of services will be key to ensure high quality of care. In fact, long waiting times and barriers to access healthcare, produced by the high costs of services, prevent many citizens from seeking care, with detrimental effects on their health and on the well-being of their families. This can also be detrimental to public finances, as it discourages preventive behaviour.

  • Thus, the Commission calls for policies in healthcare that focus on increasing the coordination of various sectors, with special attention on the role of primary care, prevention and enhanced training for health care workers, to ensure higher quality in the delivery of services.
  • Moreover, In the long-term setting, informal care from the family plays a big role in the delivery of care to older persons. In only few member states, reforms aim at increasing the network between informal carers and institutions to support each other and to increase sustainability and quality of services.

Household income

In 2017, a slight decrease in income inequalities was recorded in the EU, and estimates predict that the trend will continue in the following year. In fact, increases in the income of lower income houses were higher compared to high income households. Discrepancies across member states still occur, due to the different levels of social protection, education and training available. Therefore, the Commission wants attention to further focus on ensuring equal access to high quality healthcare, promotion of gender equality and address regional disparities.

As a consequence of the decrease in income inequalities, the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion decreased of 5 million in 2017 compared to the level of pre-crisis in 2008, highlighting the achievements made in reducing the number of people experiencing severe material deprivation and the number of people living in extremely low work intensity households. The trend is expected to continue in 2018 but values are still far from the ones set as a goal in the Europe 2020 targets, which projected 15 million more people to leave poverty and social exclusion. Moreover, in a context where housing-related costs account for a significant share of individual’s incomes and the number of homeless is not decreasing, some member states are trying to implement reforms for increasing the access to housing through the delivery of economical incentives or via preventative measures.

On the contrary, the number of people experiencing in-work poverty, rose from 8.6% in 2008 to 9.6% in 2017, with rates above 12% in several member states. The Commission considers that implementation of minimum wages may stimulate inclusion of certain groups in working environments but risk reducing employment rates for low-skilled workers. The Commission calls on member state to address this in social dialogue on how to increase coverage of social dialogue to all types of workers.

  • To further increase opportunities for employment, several member states are adopting targeted incentives to improve integration into the labour market of specific groups, such as older people, youth, long-term unemployed and migrants.

What is the Joint Employment Report?

The Joint Employment Report aims at providing an overview of the achievements made and challenges faced by Member States in relation to the data present in the ‘Social Scoreboard’. This is a list of statistics used to analyse the EU member states’ social performance every year. Realized to monitor the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Social Scoreboard is composed of 14 indicators divided in three dimensions: 1) Equal opportunities and access to labour market, 2) dynamic labour market and fair working conditions 3) public support and social protection and inclusion.

The Joint Employment Report, released as a draft by the Commission in November 2018, will be discussed together with the Annual Growth Survey in the Council of Employment ministers in March 2019 and adopted by them. Taken together, the Growth Survey and the Employment report form the blueprint for the priorities to be pursued in the European Semester 2019.

More information:

AGE thanks Miriam Saso, Policy Intern, for the help in providing this summary

For further information, please contact Philippe Seidel at the AGE Secretariat: philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu

This website is developed with the financial support of an operating grant of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Commission. The contents of the articles are the sole responsibility of AGE Platform Europe and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.