Living longer, working better - active ageing in Europe

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Europe's coming of age: Europeans are now living longer than ever before with significant implications for the sustainability of pensions, economic growth and the future labour supply. The increased lifespan, on average 8-9 years more than in 1960, is great news  - particularly if accompanied by more years in good health - but also poses many questions for individuals, their families and social systems. How long do I need to work? Can I even afford to retire? Does society recognise my contribution in providing care and volunteering?

Conditions at work - what needs to change in the workplace to keep older workers

For most people work is not only a source of income but also an important aspect of their personal identity and their social life. When workers grow older, the positive elements of work often retain their importance, but for many it becomes more difficult to do their jobs. The latest findings from the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS 2010) provide some good news in this respect: they show that the percentage of workers in the EU27 that 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.

Working after retirement - a growing phenomenon

Over the past five years employment rates among workers aged 65 to 74 years increased by 15% in the EU27 (Eurostat, 2011). Most people in this age group are pensioners, demonstrating that it has become more common for pensioners to take on paid employment. There are two reasons why pensioners are increasingly involved in paid work. First, many want to work. This group sees work as a way to contribute to society, to be in contact with others, and to keep active. Improved health among pensioners has contributed to the growth of this group. Second, many pensioners need to work. For them, income after retirement from state pensions, occupational pensions, accumulated savings and other sources is just too low.

Impact of the recession - older workers are less affected

Keeping older employees in the workforce for longer has been at the heart of national and European policies since the late 1990s. These policies have had an impact. Employment rates for older workers aged 55 to 64 have increased considerably over the last ten years, from 38% to 47% (Eurostat, 2000–2010). Recessions tend to hit younger workers especially hard, and this recession has been no exception. However, Eurofound research reveals that employment of older workers in the EU has increased in all types of jobs, and especially in the health, education and social work sectors.

Demographic change - its impact on Europe

Europeans are living longer than ever before, nearly ten years more than in 1960. The increased lifespan is great news but also poses many questions for individuals, their families and social systems. Other demographic developments reinforce the challenges: fewer children are being born, which means fewer people are paying into state pension and healthcare systems, and there is a smaller pool of potential carers. Europe's population growth is still fuelled mainly by immigration. Non-EU citizens have been joining EU countries at a rate of one to two million per year and intra-EU mobility has also increased. By 2060 the proportion of migrants and their descendants will have doubled (Eurostat, 2011).