Active Ageing: What differential experiences across EU countries?

6. Conclusions
For the active ageing agenda in terms of extending working lives, the policy context in Sweden provides a good practice example, which is clearly linked to the design of the Swedish public pension system that was thoroughly reshaped during the 1990s. The reformed notional defined contribution system encourages people to work longer. Moreover, in general, the labour market is characterised by employers encouraging older workers to continue in employment. The situation is similar in the UK and more recently in the Netherlands, where employment rates of older people are also relatively high.
The employment of those aged 65-74 is equally of interest as it provides a way of the people concerned adding to their income, and so reducing the chances of poverty in old age, while at the same time expanding the work force. Formal engagement with the labour market also serves as a means of remaining actively involved in other social and civic activities in older age, the evidence indicating that those employed are more often involved in voluntary activities than those who are not. At the same time, the statistics on the employment rate of this age group need to be interpreted with caution, since they show that employment is highest in Portugal, Romania and also, to lesser extent, in Cyprus and Estonia, in all of which many people aged 65 and over work in agriculture, often on a subsistence basis. In these countries, continued employment is in many cases a reflection of inadequate levels of pension income entitlement. Employment rates for those aged 65-74 are also relatively high in Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and the UK, and these cases are not necessarily a reflection of inadequate pensions – though for a number of people, especially in the latter two countries, they may be – but they are in part a result of insufficient incentives to delay retirement.
In a number of countries, a significant proportion of older people employed after the age of 60 worked part-time, which represents a way of easing the transition from employment into retirement – and of avoiding a ‘cliff-edge’ fall from one to the other. This is much less the case in Central and Eastern European countries, however, where there is little or no evidence in most cases of such a gradual transition taking place. This clearly reflects the relatively low earnings from employment in these countries and the need to work full-time in order to achieve a reasonable standard of living, but it also reflects perhaps the inability of people at present to find part-time employment or to work part-time without losing their entitlement to pension.
In most EU countries, there has been a rising trend of employment among workers aged 55-64 from 2000 on up until the recession that started in 2008. Moreover, while this slowed down the trend or even brought it to an end, it is still the case, that unlike in previous economic downturns, employment among older workers has held up much better than among younger age groups. Among the policy measures underlying the upward trend, those implemented in the Netherlands are a notable example of good practice. These were designed to raise the labour market participation of older workers and reduce their dependence on early retirement, sickness and, most especially, disability benefits. Three policy measures, in particular, were important in raising employment rates markedly: the elimination of financial disincentives to delay retirement and make the pension system actuarially fairer; actions to keep people with reduced working capacity in the labour market instead of allowing – or even encouraging – them to claim invalidity benefits; and stricter job search requirements, combined with more job search support, for the unemployed in this age group.
Active ageing, however, is not only about encouraging people to work longer and making it easier for them to do so. Evidence from time use surveys indicate that unpaid work is also an important means for older people to remain active and actively contribute to, and participate in society. The results from SHARE on voluntary work indicate that there is much unused potential among older people to be involved in non-market activities which can be no less important as a source of social value as market activities. Policy makers should take this into account in the future when designing policies for older age groups alongside measures to increase their labour market participation. The European year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations provides a good opportunity for policy makers and social partners to raise awareness of these issues and to promote and disseminate good example of policy related to active ageing.

Commission of the European Communities (1999). Towards a Europe for all ages-promoting prosperity and intergenerational solidarity COM (1999) 221 final.

Commission of the European Communities (2002). Europe’s response to world ageing: Promoting economic and social progress in an ageing world. A contribution of the European commission to the 2nd world assembly on ageing COM (2002) 143 final.

Commission of the European Communities (2005). Green paper Confronting demographic change: A new solidarity between the generations, Brussels, 16.3.2005 COM (2005) 94.

Commission of the European Communities (2010). EUROPE 2020 A Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, Brussels, 3.3.2010 COM (2010) 2020 Final.

Commission of the European Communities (2011). Active ageing and solidarity between generations – A statistical portrait of the European Union 2012. Eurostat Statistical Books, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Decision No 940/2011/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2011 on the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (2012).

Economic Policy Committee (2009a). “The 2009 Ageing Report: Economic and Budgetary Projections for the EU-27 Member States (2008-2060)”, Joint Report prepared by the European Commission (DG ECFIN) and the Economic Policy Committee (AWG), European Economy 2|2009.

Economic Policy Committee (2009b). “Sustainability Report 2009”, European Economy 9|2009.

Giarini, O., (2009) The Four Pillars, the Financial Crisis and Demographics – Challenges and Opportunities, The Geneva Papers 34: 507–511,

Guillemard, A. and M. Rein, M. (1993). Comparative patterns of retirement: Recent trends in developed societies. Annual Review of Sociology 19:469503.

Hamblin, K. (2010). Changes to policies for work and retirement in EU15 nations (1995-2005): an exploration of policy packages for the 50-plus cohort, International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, 5(1): 13-43.

Krantz-Kent, R. and Stewart, J. (2007). How do older Americans spend their time? Monthly Labour Review 130(5): 8-26.

Kunemund, H. and Kolland, F. (2007). Work and retirement. In J. Bond, S. Peace, F. Dittmann-Kohli & G. Westerhof (eds.), Ageing in Society (pp. 167-185). London: Sage.

Lanzieri, G. (2011). ‘The greying of the baby boomers – A century-long view of ageing in European populations’, Population and social conditions, Statistics in focus, 23/2011.

Marcu, Monica (2011). ‘Population grows in twenty EU Member States, Population change in Europe in 2010: first results’, Population and social conditions, Statistics in focus, 38/2011.

OECD (2011). Pensions at a Glance 2011: Retirement-income Systems in OECD and G20 Countries, OECD Publishing.

United Nations (2002). Report of the Second World Assembly on Ageing, New York, United Nations.

Walker, A. (2010). The Emergence and Application of Active Aging in Europe. Soziale Lebenslaufpolitik, Part 8, 585-601.

Walker, A. (2002). A strategy for active ageing. International Social Security Review 55: 121-139.

Walker, A. (1993). Age and Attitudes, Brussels, EC.

Walker, A. and G. Naegele (1999). Introduction. In G. Naegele & A. Walker (eds.), The Politics of Old Age in Europe (pp. 1-7). Buckingham: Open University Press.

Wilson, J. and Musick, M. (1997). Who Cares? Toward and Integrated Theory of Volunteer Work. American Sociological Review 62: 694-713.

World Health Organisation (2002). ‘Active Ageing – A Policy Framework’, A contribution of the World Health Organization to the Second United Nations World Assembly on Ageing, Madrid, Spain, April 2002.

Zaidi, A., Gasior, K., and Manchin, R. (2012). Population Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity: International Policy Frameworks and European Public Opinion. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, Volume 10, issue 3.

Annex A: Additional tables

Table A.1: Employment status by age groups (%), 2010

Table A.2: Employment rate by age and gender (%), 2010

Table A.3: Proportion of full-time workers among the employed, by gender and age (%), 2010

Table A.4: Distribution of working hours for employed people (%), by age, 2010

Table A.5: Trends in employment rate for older workers aged 55-64 (%), 2005-2010

Table A.6: Trends in employment rate for ‘silver workers’, aged 65-74 (%), by gender, 2005-2010

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Tags: , , , , , , ,