The numbers of working Europeans between 55 and 64 has leapt by 10% in the last decade, say statistics published today on the launch of the EU’s year of active and healthy ageing.
A Eurobarometer survey found that the numbers of people employed between 60 and 64 jumped from 25% of the overall population in the bloc in 2000 to 30% in 2010, whilst the percentage between 55 and 59 rose by 11% over the same period.
The Commission is highlighting the demographic challenge faced by the continent – where the proportion older than 55 years is set to rise from 30% to 40 % between now and 2060 – chiefly because of the strain this will place on employment, pensions and health budgets.
The majority of Europeans (71%) are aware of the demographic challenge, but less than half (42%) think it is a cause for concern, the survey found.
Pensions, retirement at root of problem
The Commission wants to encourage “older age groups to have the opportunity to stay in the workforce and share their experience”, says a communiqué, but the thorniest issue remains the age at which people may retire.
Spurred by the financial crisis, governments are scrambling to increase the retirement age. Only one in three Europeans agrees with the idea that the official retirement age will have to be raised by 2030, even though this is now a clear policy priority in many countries.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a law that will gradually raise the minimum retirement age by two years, to 62. His Socialist opponent in the election campaign – François Hollande – has vowed to pull this back to 60 for certain workers, a political battle playing out in many countries.
Women stay younger longer
The survey revealed strong support (61%) for the idea that people should be allowed to continue working once they have reached the official retirement age.
It also exposed mixed perceptions of youth and age in the EU. Maltese and Swedes over the age of 37 are no longer considered young, for example, whereas 49-year-old Greeks and Cypriots are still considered to be in their youth.
On average, Europeans believe that youth ends shortly before a 42nd birthday, and old age begins at 64, but women prefer not to think of themselves as old for longer than men (65 and 62 years respectively).
Survey shows that people are ready to remain active as they grow older. László Andor, commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, presented the survey saying: “I am confident that the European year will act as a catalyst to mobilise citizens, stakeholders and decision-makers to take action to promote active ageing and to tackle the challenges of ageing in a positive way.”