EUROPEAN PAPERS ON THE NEW WELFARE

Mobilising the Potential of Active Ageing and Silver Economy in European Countries

2.1 Volunteering activities
The countries with one of the highest proportion of volunteers among older people are Austria, the Netherlands, Ireland and the three Nordic EU countries (Finland, Sweden, and Denmark), with at least one out of four elderly persons active in providing volunteer work (which is identified to be a non-paid activity undertaken for non-family members out of one’s free will). Austria stands out (as shown in Figure 4), as both Austrian men have very high rates of volunteering activities, much more than Austrian women or men in any other country.

The lowest values occur for Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, with less than 5% of the population involved in volunteering activities. This may partly be a reflection of the fact that the people fail to report in these countries activities that are regarded as voluntary help.

Figure 4: Percentage of older persons (aged 55+) undertaking voluntary activities through organisations (during the past 12 months), data from the 2011 EQLS
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Source: Author’s own calculations using the 2011 European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), in the context of the Active Ageing Index project (for more details, see European Centre Vienna 2013; Zaidi et al. 2013).

In almost all countries, men offer volunteering activities more than women, most notably in Austria (as mentioned above) but also in Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany and Slovenia. These gender differentials may partly be due to fact that men are more likely to offer their volunteering services in a formal setting and thus their contributions are more often recorded in the datasets than the contributions of women whose contributions come more often in informal situations. Most frequently, women tend to provide informal help to others, including cooking, taking care of people of their communities in hospitals or at their homes, taking people for a walk, or shopping, and these personal voluntary activities often go unreported.

2.2 Care provision to own children and grandchildren
A relatively higher share of the older people provides care for their own children and grandchildren, reflecting the fact that this form of intergenerational support is more prevalent in many EU countries. The top most countries are two Southern European countries, Italy and Cyprus, where as many as 50 to 55% of all women in the age group 55+ provided childcare support. The Italian older men are also not far behind, at around 50% of them are involved in providing care to children. The next in line are Slovenia, Ireland, Hungary and Belgium, where every close to 40% of older persons are engaged in childcare activities. In many countries, there are no significant differences between men and women, and women are more often involved in providing the childcare than men. The gender differences are particularly large in Southern European countries (except Portugal), but also in Latvia.

Figure 5: Percentage of older persons (aged 55+) providing care to their children, grandchildren (at least once a week), data from the 2011 EQLS
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Source: Author’s own calculations using the 2011 European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), in the context of the Active Ageing Index project (for more details, see European Centre Vienna 2013; Zaidi et al. 2013).

2.3 Care provision to older adults
With respect to care provision to older adults and disabled persons, the contribution of older persons range from, on average, as low as 6% in Denmark to 17% in Finland and Italy. It is not surprising that women are more often involved in such informal care provision in the majority of EU countries – in Greece and Ireland women are almost twice as likely to be involved in care provision to older adults as men. Ireland, Italy and Finland have the highest rates of personal care for older adults among women, and the last two are also among the top two performers in case of men. The Czech Republic stands out as the country with the highest values of care for older adults by men.

Figure 6: Percentage of older persons (aged 55+) providing care to elderly or disabled relatives (at least once a week), data from the 2011 EQLS
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Source: Author’s own calculations using the 2011 European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), in the context of the Active Ageing Index project (for more details, see European Centre Vienna 2013; Zaidi et al. 2013).

2.4 Education and training activities by older population
One other activity of the highest interest is the participation in education and/or training by older people. Results drawn from the EU-LFS, 2010, show that very small proportions of older people are engaged in education or training activities, with the exception of three Nordic EU countries: Denmark, Sweden and Finland (see Figure 8). EU countries fall behind in this important area and this lack of lifelong learning activity, often referred to as mental retirement, is one important area of policy intervention, especially in the Eastern bloc of EU countries.

Figure 7: Percentage of older population (aged 55-74) who received education or training in the four weeks period preceding the survey, EU-LFS 2010
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Source: European Centre Vienna 2013; Zaidi et al. 2013.


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