EUROPEAN PAPERS ON THE NEW WELFARE

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.

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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


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