On Tuesday, I attended the launch of ‘Ageism In Europe’, a report Age UK commissioned that analyses European Social Survey to shed a light on ageism and stimulate the policy debate. The survey sought the views of 55,000 people across 28 European Countries.
While gender and race have been headline equality issues in Europe, ageism is becoming an important issue for the 21st century. Ageism is now the most widely experienced form of discrimination in Europe. 44% of the people we aked perceive age discrimination as ‘quite serious’ or ‘very serious’, while 35% report unfair treatment on the grounds of age. Over half of people are worried that employers prefer people in their 20s to older workers.
In practically all developed countries, life expectancy is increasing, fertility is decreasing, and working lives must be longer if pension promises are to be sustainable. These trends have significant implications for many aspects of modern life: the labour market, workplace technologies, consumer behaviour, social security systems, national health arrangements, and economic growth as a whole.
This demographic challenge is high on the agenda of Europe’s policy-makers, at EU and national level. The latest figures from the European Union’s Statistical Office show there are now 87 million Europeans aged 65 and over. In the past 12 months, important EU policy debates have been launched around ageing, including a Green Paper on the future of European pensions, EU 2020 employment targets up to age 64, and a European Innovation Partnership for active healthy ageing. The year 2012 has been designated the European Year of Active Ageing (EY2012), which will engage the 27 EU Member States in promoting active ageing in employment and community life, healthy ageing and independent living. The European Parliament also recently launched a debate on the consequences of demographic change for the future of EU Cohesion Policy.
Our briefing summarises key findings from the study for a European audience. It presents policy recommendations to EU and national decision-makers, concerning employment, active ageing, equal treatment and intergenerational solidarity. We hope the briefing will prove a useful input to the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing, and support the work of AGE Platform Europe in promoting active ageing and intergenerational solidarity.