Is Eurofound’s a contrarian view? While youth unemployment rampantly increases throughout the European Monetary Union, Eurofound on Wednesday will be telling a different story: the labour market shortfall caused by the decline in Europe’s population and workforce will not be offset by growing immigration levels nor by higher fertility and productivity rates, delegates will be told at the Opening Conference of the 2012 European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations in Copenhagen on 18 January.
The only way forward, according to Eurofound, the EU-agency charged with providing European social policymakers with comparative socio-economic research data, is more active and inclusive employment policies to extend working life.
“Europeans are living longer than ever before, on average ten years more than in 1960. The increased life span is great news, particularly if accompanied by more years in good health. But it also poses many questions for individuals, their families and social security; how long do I need to work? Can I afford to retire? Does society recognise my contribution in providing care and volunteering?
If current levels of productivity and pensions are to be maintained, more people will have to work for longer, Eurofound says. Research from Eurofound concludes that the proportion of workers in the EU27 who think they will be able to do their current job at the age of 60 has risen marginally from 57% in 2000 to 59% in 2010. Also, over the past five years, work beyond retirement has become more common in almost all member states. Currently, around 10% of 65- 69-year-olds are employed in the EU27, compared to 8.7% five years ago.
The continual decline in physically demanding work, as well as improvement in health, will contribute to increasing employment rates for older workers in the future. Also,
“There is no macro-level evidence that older workers sacrificing jobs would benefit the young. There are, however, a number of issues to overcome in relation to the retention and re-employment of older workers, among which updated skills inflexibility versus experience is one, and the short payback time for the human capital investment is another.”
A Eurobarometer survey shows that 71% of Europeans are aware that Europe’s population is getting older, but only 42% are concerned about this development. This is in stark contrast with the perceptions of policy makers, who regard demographic ageing as a major challenge. Most citizens (over 60%) believe that we should be allowed to continue working after retirement age and one third says that they would like to work longer themselves.