Social Policy : Five Ways to Take Up Demographic Changes

Article excerpt

The Commission has decided to step up actions to take up the challenges of ageing, "a demographic time-bomb" in the words of Vladimir Spidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. The new Communication, approved on 12 October, sets out five areas for action.

First: balance between work and private life. Potential parents must be able to have "as many children as they want". Three ideas are put forward: first, reducing inequality of opportunities for citizens with and without children; second, offering universal access to services for parents, particularly for the minding of young children; and third, adapting working time and lifelong learning opportunities. At the Barcelona Summit in 2002, member states agreed to increase the provision of child-care services by at least 90% for children aged between three and six years and by 33% for children under age three. "It is time for these child-minding services to be put in place," warns the Commission. A consultation of the social partners on this issue has just begun.

Second: work opportunities for older people. Member states must "take the necessary measures", notes the communication, to respect the commitments made at the Stockholm European Council in 2001 to raise the employment rate of those aged 55 and over beyond the 50% level. They must also fully apply the principle of non-discrimination (especially based on age) written into the 2000 Directive on equal treatment at the workplace. The Commission will be assessing implementation of this obligation in 2007. "We have to ensure that it is indeed possible to work longer and that all public policies expand employment possibilities for older workers."

Third: increase the productivity and competitiveness potential. …