EESC opinion: Demographic trends and the labour market

EESC opinion: Demographic trends and the labour market

Key points

By far the most effective strategy for managing population ageing in Europe is to make full use of available employment potential. This can only be achieved through a targeted growth policy and by increasing the number of quality jobs with compulsory social security contributions.

Efforts to increase employment levels of older people based mainly on changes to pension systems, which result in less favourable terms for accessing schemes and for entitlements, in particular proposals to raise the statutory retirement age, are wide of the mark.

Trends in the economic dependency ratio (the ratio of benefit recipients to working population) are far more important than demographic ratios (relationship between the number of older people and the number of people of working age) in determining future funding requirements for pension provision.

If it proves possible over the coming decades to significantly improve the labour market integration of people of working age across the EU, then the increase in economic dependency can be contained.

Demographic change also provides opportunities for the economy and employment. On the one hand, older people are becoming increasingly important as consumers, which creates employment opportunities for other age groups too. On the other hand, an ageing society also provides considerable employment potential on the supply side.

The number and quality of jobs arising from older people's economic potential will very much depend on how active service-provision policies shape the "silver economy".

Particularly in the health and care sector, but also in other sectors, it will be important to seize the opportunity of rising demand by offering employment with good conditions and fair pay, and by modernising and professionalising skills profiles, etc.

If the retirement age is to be raised, then it is necessary to ensure that people can work longer. This means creating jobs and designing them so that people can work until the statutory retirement age. This will require systematic reform to develop work that accommodates older people. It is clear however that this should not lead to an increased pressure on older people, nor should stopping work put them into financial difficulties.