Category Archives: Europe

Brexit: Unknown unknowns

We are repeatedly being told that “Brexit means Brexit” – but what does that actually mean? At the moment we are still a long way from really understanding the impact of Brexit on our daily lives. The Minister in charge of Brexit, David Davis, told Parliament last week that he didn’t yet know what sort of arrangements the UK would end up with in terms of trade, free movement of people or indeed any of the other hundreds of areas of policy which will be affected by Britain leaving the European Union. Continue reading

It is wrong and unfair to denigrate older people because of the EU Referendum result

The conclusion of the EU referendum, with its relatively slender majority for Leave, has been warmly welcomed by those who campaigned for a ‘Brexit’ but generated shock and dismay on the part of many fervent Remainers and in some instances real anger too. Such emotions are  understandable, given the huge potential ramifications of the decision to leave the EU, about which we will no doubt be hearing a lot more in the days and weeks to come.

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EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?

This blog was contributed by Nicola Robinson, Age UK’s European Political Adviser.

2012 wasn’t just the year of the London Olympics, and the Queen’s Jubilee, it was also the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012).

Like London 2012 – recognised as happy and glorious, EY2012 leaves us with much to celebrate.

The Opening Ceremony took place in Copenhagen – a pretty good place to grow old, with impressive participation rates in employment, volunteering and all sorts of fun.EY2012

Commissioner Andor fired the starting pistol and Eurocrats were off to a flyer, producing a bumper crop of pan-European reports, including a Statistical Portrait, 2012 Ageing Report, and Eurobarometer Survey.

There are now 182m Europeans aged 50+, living longer, more active lives than ever before.

To celebrate, Age UK hosted a World Café, organized by older people, inviting 100 Europeans aged 50+ to help change perceptions of ageing.  We also celebrated the huge contribution of older people at our Volunteering Awards, supported by the European Commission and Parliament.  And we celebrated physical activity in later life, through our Fit as a Fiddle programme, which won EU and WHO plaudits. Continue reading

The costs of demographic change – an EU obsession?

 The European Union’s massive 2012 Ageing Report, published on 15 May and promptly endorsed by national governments, warns darkly of the impact of demographic change in driving up age-related public expenditure, and undermining the sustainability of government finances, in the context of the current financial crisis.

The same themes run through a lot of recent EU work – President Barroso’s EU2020 strategy, the 2012 Annual Growth Survey, and this spring’s Pensions White Paper.  

Ambitiously presenting a projection for 2010-2060, the 2012 Ageing report suggests that “age-related expenditure” will increase by 4.1% of GDP, counting pensions (+1.5%), health expenditure (+1.5%), and long term care (+1.1%).   Altogether, age-related expenditure accounts for 25% of GDP, and about 50% of general government expenditure, so we are talking big stuff, and small adjustments can have big consequences.

The EU seems to focus almost obsessively on demographic projections.  The numbers of Europeans over 65 will double by 2060, from 87.5m to 152.6m, and the 85+ will triple from 23.7m to 62.4m.   But the report does not acknowledge that the older people of 2060 are children today. When we reach 2060, will they have the same needs as older people today?   Will they have the same demands on public expenditure?   These are unknowns, so projecting from today’s needs seems inherently flawed. 

The age dependency ratio, which the EU  solemnly shows as doubling by 2060 (from four working age people to two, to every ‘retired’ person), assumes that those aged 20-64 are active in the labour market and that the 65+ are passive and dependent. 

But older people today contribute greatly to their communities as volunteers, to their families as grandparents, and to the economy as consumers. The EC makes no attempt to monetize these contributions – let alone project them over the next 50 years – so they are not included in their calculations. It is naive and one-sided to talk of the dependency ratio, without understanding these important contributions.

Looking forward, the increasing dependency the EU fears could be mitigated by smarter policies to promote  working longer prevent illness and reduce care needs. 

Economic growth, the answer to everyone’s prayers, will not flow from its historical engine – an increase in the number of young workers entering employment.   Instead we have to invest in the productivity of our existing labour force, and grow the silver economy by designing better products and services for older people.  The proposed European Accessibility Act is an opportunity to do this.

The EU’s 2012 Ageing Report is a proper call to action, but it should not drive cuts in health and pensions spending.   Other smarter policies can help manage demographic change and give Europeans the opportunity to live longer, more fullfilled lives which our ancestors would never have dreamed possible.

Find out more about Age UK’s European work

Read another blog contributed by Mervyn Kohler