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Providing employment for Europe’s young and old

Submitted by on 30 Nov 2010 – 17:10

By Thomas Mann MEP

According to the latest statistics, the average age of European citizens will increase up to 10 years by 2050 while at the same time less young people will be in the labour market. Hence, the question arises as to how the European Union will cope with 48 million less employees together with an increasing amount of people who are over the age of 80. Although numerous summits have already offered recommendations to meet the demographic challenge, Europe remains hesitant.

The Committee of Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) has now found a completely new approach while including concrete measures both for young and elderly people in one package. This is all included in my report on solidarity between the generations, which the EMPL accepted on 30th September. But against the votes of my own party, the EPP, a majority in the committee could achieve the demand for new anti-discrimination directives for elderly people such as conclusions of insurance contracts, booking of journeys or car rentals. Additional anti-discrimination rules can lead to more bureaucracy and restrain the growth that is required to lead a country out of a crisis.

The EMPL Committee is demanding an introduction of generation balances from all Member States on a statistical database. Thereby, the flow of payments between different age-groups as well as benefits and burdens of every generation will be reliably represented and forecasted. Via the “Generation-Check” EMPL demands a binding law impact assessment on national and European level concerning intergenerational justice.

At the older side of society, just half of 55 to 64 year olds are in work right now. The fact that 15% of people over 65 live under the poverty line in the EU is alarming, especially given the fact that they live in an economically powerful Union. In reference to the elderly, the Committee agreed a concrete ‘European Pact 50plus’. The Member States shall reach the three following objectives by 2020:

1. The proportion of employees aged over 50 shall be extended to more than 55%;
2. Early retirement and its financial incentives shall be banned EU-wide;
3. The Member States shall create financial incentives for people over 60 so that they can be longer available on the labour market.

The pact is complemented by EU-promotions for mixed-age groups in enterprises as well as the control of age limitations concerning the exertion of jobs and mandates, which shall lead to a cancellation of age limitations until 2012 in all Member States.

At the other side of the age scale stands the European Youth Guarantee. In times of the financial crisis, young and old people are equally confronted with the lack of sufficient jobs, an adequate payment or even have to suffer grave poverty. Shocking facts such as that the group of under 25 year olds have the highest unemployment rate whereby every fifth of this generation in the EU is unemployed fill the headlines almost every day. Consequently, youth employment is one of our most pressing problems while leading to a denial of opportunities, rising social costs and the lack of prospects that existing potential will never be used.

Via the European Youth Guarantee the EMPL-Committee demands from Member States that every young person is offered a job, an apprenticeship or participation in a training programme for future employment after a period of unemployment for four months, based on the principle of Promoting and Demanding.

Furthermore, initiatives like ‘Active Ageing’ secure older people’s dignity, health and quality of life. It is important to clarify that our parents’ generation are not a burden on economy and society, but rather present a personal asset through their working experience and extensive knowledge. The first step is already made: the Commission followed my report and proposed 2012 as the ‘European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between the Generations’.

The vote for this report is foreseen for this November in Brussels and shall be followed by a directive proposal of the EU Commission in the short run.