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31/10/2017

Age-friendly work in Europe: 4 EU agencies give a joint perspective

In recent years, governments and employers across the EU have made efforts to shift perspectives on ageing by promoting the benefits of the ‘silver economy’. In light of the Healthy Workplaces Campaign, EU-OSHA organised and coordinated a Joint-Agency report looking at the implications of demographic change on employment, working conditions and workers’ health and education.  

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The report, ‘Towards age-friendly work in Europe: a life-course perspective on work and ageing from EU Agencies’, is authored by 4 EU agencies and aims to promote ‘sustainable work’ in a holistic way and provides a cross-agency perspective of ageing and work. It is forward-looking in its approach to presenting principles and practices aimed at keeping the European population, in essence its workforce, active and healthy.

The chapter by Eurofound discusses the European Working Conditions Survey data and the policies developed by EU governments related to fostering longer working lives. EU-OSHA then highlights the multidisciplinary nature of a successful policy approach to ageing and occupational safety and health (OSH) by looking at successful policies being implemented in different EU countries. Cedefop’s chapter focuses on vocational education and training and policies to support active ageing, and finally EIGE adds a gender perspective to the issue of the ageing workforce and the different challenges that men and women face.

To fight the consequences of demographic change, many EU countries have already raised the official retirement age and have often also restricted possibilities for early retirement (report, p.8). These changes have contributed to a rise in the employment rate of older workers (age group: 55-64) in the EU. However, figures show that older workers are very likely to face health problems (report, p.8-9), which could create difficulties in them participating fully in the labour market.

To address such demographic issues, the EU recently adopted the New Skills Agenda for Europe, designed to reach the target of improving employment rates by taking a whole life-course approach to developing skills. Another priority area in this agenda aims to improve job flexibility and security (‘flexicurity’). Other related EU initiatives include the European Pillar of Social Rights and the EU OSH Strategic Framework 2014-2020.

By linking relevant issues and by placing them in the context of European policy discourse, this Joint-Agency report showcases the importance of holistic approaches and transversal policy perspectives on ageing. Among the conclusions reached (report, p.73) was the need to promote anticipation and prevention over measures that aim to solve problems and address issues after they have occurred.

The report also underlines the need to prevent ill health by providing decent working conditions, including preventing stress, promoting health, well-being and equality and ensuring a good work–life balance for men and women alike to achieve sustainable working lives for all.

At the individual level, it’s important to take each worker’s specific situation into consideration to enable them to stay in employment longer. This can mean providing flexible working arrangements, strategies for rehabilitation and return to work, or effective policies and strategies to promote career management skills at all stages of working life.

To find out more visit EU-OSHA’s dedicated page on OSH management in the context of an ageing workforce. You can also follow the Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter, using the hashtag #EUhealthyworkplaces to keep up to date with the latest news and events. Subscribe to our campaign newsletter