Member states size up challenge
By Sophie Petitjean | Tuesday 06 July 2010
At the latest Employment and Social Policy Council, on 7 June, the employment ministers adopted conclusions on active ageing and adequate pensions. Though they are not binding, the conclusions demonstrate the member states’ concerns about the sustainability and adequacy of pensions, a national responsibility. The population aged over 60 will be increasing in the coming years much more quickly than ever before in the European Union and the employment ministers consequently pledged to encourage active ageing in their country. They also urged the member states to ensure conditions that can enable older persons to remain active longer, in particular by investing in lifelong learning and abolishing obstacles to employment. The Council also invited the European Commission to present a strategic framework for the promotion of active ageing at the European Demography Forum in 2010 and to continue preparing the European Year for Active Ageing, scheduled for 2012.
In their second set of conclusions, the ministers noted that active ageing must give special attention to the adequacy of pensions. More specifically: 1. measurement and monitoring of adequacy; 2. the development of a minimum income provision for older people while avoiding undermining work incentives prior to retirement; 3. conditions for qualifying for an adequate pension (contribution record criteria, career breaks, pensionable age, etc); 4. indexation and adjustment of minimum pensions or minimum income provisions for older people; and 5. positive evolution of the participation of older workers in the labour market.
The European Parliament is not sitting idly by either. In October, it will vote on a report by Pervenche Berès (S&D, France), which stresses the threat financial markets can pose to pension schemes. “[On the contrary], they should help finance solidarity between the generations,” it states. The French MEPs seeks to encourage financial innovation where it can allow the development of simple and transparent instruments to finance technological innovation, long-term investment and the funding of pensions. These proposals have been toned down from those presented in the second working paper, on 22 April, on the social impact of the crisis. Berès had originally proposed EU-level coordination of the collection and availability of an independent resource, to come from the taxation of financial transactions, in order to reinforce insurance schemes and ensure a pension fund to those unable to acquire full entitlement to a pension because they have lost their job.