03 Dec EFEE ATTENDS THE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE ON “DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE IN THE EUROPEAN UNION”
On 24 November 2020, EFEE attended the online conference “Demographic change in the European Union”. The conference took place as the 4th meeting of the Working Group on “Improving the Performance of Labor Markets and Social Systems”, being brought to life by Social Partners for the purpose of mutual learning on challenges highlighted in the semester process. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the negative social and economic trends bound with demographic change from the national perspective and to elaborate on the role social partners could play with regards to their solution.
The conference was opened by representatives of the organizing social partners Business Europe, SMEunited and ETUC. All representatives identified demographic aging as one of the megatrends, including digitalization and the green transition, which European societies has already been facing for a long time. Positive changes have been undertaken by some European countries, such as pension reforms and the therewith bound raising of the age of retirement to up to 67 years. Yet, the representatives noted that these changes have not been sustainable as they were not performed by all European countries and also did not focus on the specific needs of European societies.
Consequentially, the social partners stressed the need for a continuous assessment regarding the aspect of sustainability implemented in the measures taken by Members States. In this regard, the following assessment parameters were introduced to participants, which also became key term for the later on following presentations and discussions: Intergenerational justice, gender equality, pension schemes, older workforce participation and fair working conditions as well as lifelong learning.
Against the backdrop of these parameters, the Commission’s initiative for a green paper of ageing, to be adopted in 2021, was welcomed by participants as well as keynotes speakers such as Ms Ana Carla Peira (European Commission, Cabinet of Commissioner Nicholas Schmit) and Rait Kuuse (Chair of the Social Protection Committee) In their presentation, Ms Peira as well as Mr Kuuse noted that today’s European social protection systems are exposed to double pressure with regards to demographic change and the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a consequence, this creates greater insecurities in the lives of people working on non-standard contracts, being self-employed or even without employment. In this regard, it was noted that the proportion of this group increased in society over the years due to, for instance, the more entrepreneur-oriented mindset of young people as well as the integration of migrants into European societies. In the light of this, both speakers concluded that European social security systems need to undergo a sustainable re-adjustment according to these new social realities. Thereby, the importance of the Commission’s initiative for a green paper to be in alignment with the European Pillar of Social Rights as well as the latest Council Recommendation on access to social protection was highlighted.
In her thereafter following presentation, OECD Labour Market Economist Shruti Singh illustrated even in more depth why such readjustments are crucial specifically with regards to the labor market. Ms Singh pointed out that working needs and attitudes within European societies have changed. Due to higher qualitative medical care, people have a higher life expectancy and therewith also aspire more secure and longer professional careers. However, considering the tendency of companies to hire rather younger people and the thereout resulting high rates of elderly people being unemployed, the needs of the older generation are not met. Ms Singh, therefore, called for a re-adjustment of attitudes on today’s labor market especially on the side of companies. In this regard, she highlighted the importance of strengthening the social dialogue in order to guarantee a fairer and more secure participation of elderly workers on the European labor market. Ms Singh’s conclusion found great popularity among thereafter following speakers, providing participants with national insights from Italy and Portugal as case studies on the accessibility and sustainability of pensions for elderly workers.
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