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, Active Ageing: Towards more employment opportunities for older workers

Inspired by the "2012 European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity amongst the Generations" the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the European Policy Centre (EPC) have combined forces for their joint project on "Second Career Labour Markets. Towards more Employment Opportunities for Older Workers".

As Europe's population is ageing and its workforce continuously shrinking, innovative solutions have to be found in order to secure Europe's growth and innovation levels for the future. At the same time, people are living longer and are healthier and fitter, which allows them to participate in society and the labor market far beyond their 60s. Nevertheless, the path towards more labor market integration is still a rocky one for many older workers across Europe.

While emphasizing the need of adjusting institutions to the demographic changes in the working world, both speakers also highlighted the importance of flanking such measures with a more positive perception of older workers. In doing so, they confirmed a statement made by Aart De Geus, CEO and chairman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, at the project's opening conference last year: "We face the challenge of changing mind-sets – of thinking differently."

Within the framework of a workshop, the final project report was presented on June 12, 2013, to an audience of Brussels-based experts. Although the over-all conditions for older workers seem to have improved in recent decades, the authors identify a series of disincentives and barriers that continue to prevent better labor market integration for an ageing workforce. To create better working opportunities for older workers, the report presents a series of concrete policy measures addressed at European stakeholders such as governments, social partners, companies as well as individuals.

Supported by the two speakers Mark Keese, head of Employment Analysis and Policy Division Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD, and Lutz Bellmann, head of Research at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Germany, the workshop participants discussed the practical implementation of the project's recommendations and looked at what remains to be done in the future. "Policy measures that are based simply on the age of a person are not the answer," Keese stated. Broader conceptions are needed that pay attention to aspects such as the emergence of a learning culture and improved health prevention.

Bellmann highlighted the importance of ongoing training in order to retain the skill set of older workers. "Big companies have a clear advantage here," he said. "They are able to offer significantly more training opportunities than small and medium-sized companies, which often lack the resources to do so. In addition, the training offered is more often specialized and accustomed to an ageing workforce."

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