The Guest Blog

Guest blogpost by Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Platform Europe Secretary General.

In 2012, we were already 190 million people aged 50 years and over in the EU, i.e. 37% of the population. In 20-30 year time, we – including you and me – are going to be three times more to reach the age of 80 and over than today, and there will be fewer young persons to look after our needs. Huge impacts on Member States’ social security systems are thus expected in the coming years.

This is why active ageing and intergenerational solidarity must be key objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy and there must be a strong political commitment to tackle population ageing in a way that reconciles the needs of all age groups. Demographic change, if addressed adequately by EU leaders, is a key opportunity to implement innovative solutions that will make Europe a better place to work and live for all generations, help the EU create new quality jobs and find suitable and sustainable solutions for our ageing population.

As next President of the European Commission you will have a key role to play to reinforce the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Rather than concentrating on the impact of ageing on the public purse, you should enable public investment in age-friendly environments across the EU to help adapt our social and physical environments to the needs of our ageing population. This will lower the dependency ratio by empowering us to remain active and healthy for longer and will create new jobs in a wide range of innovative sectors.

An Age-Friendly EU would indeed help increase employment rates of both young and older workers, support more productive lives, reduce the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, help older persons remain autonomous for longer, develop more cost efficient health, social and long-term care systems, and guarantee the participation of all generations in their communities as workers, citizens and consumers.

The European Commission has started to work on these issues for some years now. However, despite some adequate topical initiatives and relevant funding opportunities for research on ageing, we lack a coordinated approach to demographic change. What the EU needs today is a coherent EU Strategy on Demographic change which would guide and coordinate EU action across policy areas in the coming decades.

An EU Strategy on Demographic Change would help coordinate and build synergies between all EU policies on which demographic change has an impact: employment, pensions, health and long-term care, mobility, housing, the protection of fundamental rights, the realisation of an internal market for services, the implementation of the Structural funds, etc.

Last week, you acknowledged the unfair social consequences of austerity measures and committed to ensure social justice during your term. Despite the on-going crisis we encourage you to adopt a long-term perspective and promote investment in sectors that will support longer, more productive lives. This will require more flexibility and creativity in the way the EU is run to bring citizens’ concerns back on the EU political agenda and offer socially sustainable answers.

The social dimension of Europe 2020 deserves equal attention to its growth objective and needs to translate into concrete outcomes for the population. Social assessments of reforms are key tools that can help guarantee adequacy and sustainability of social security systems for all generations.

The EU must also demonstrate its commitment to remain at the forefront in terms of protection of fundamental rights. This includes fighting against any form of discrimination, including age discrimination. This should be supported through the relaunching of the stalled discussions on the draft directive on equal treatment outside employment.

In this framework, an EU Strategy on Demographic Change would become an important political vector for economic growth that would support EU Member States and regions in their efforts to adapt to the needs of their rapidly ageing populations in ways that benefit from a supportive EU environment, are better coordinated and more effective.

The coming five years are a unique opportunity to take strong political action to ensure a sustainable and fair future for today’s and tomorrow’s generations. The EU cannot afford to miss this opportunity!

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