Active aging up for promotion

The government is planning to promote policies designed to encourage people to remain at work longer rather than raise the retirement age, a senior official said yesterday. «Incentives for staying at work must function within voluntary limits, until the maximum pensionable age, while keeping its content and results attractive to both working people and enterprises,» said the Labor Ministry’s secretary general, Dimitris Kontos, at an event on active aging. «In any event, the active aging policies in Greece would have to be in balance with the policies for integrating into the labor market young people, women and the other vulnerable groups affected by high unemployment. It is only through securing equal opportunities for all ages that we can maintain solidarity among the generations,» he said. The event, organized by the consultative Economic and Social Committee, was part of the European Union’s initiative Equal. Kontos said the EU-subsidized Fourth Community Support Framework investment program, for the 2007-2013 period, will be an important tool for promoting active aging. «However, the success of our policies requires establishing cooperation between all agencies involved in employment issues, and the promotion of a substantial social dialogue,» said Kontos. Need for consensus He added that any legal provisions will have to be based on broad social consensus and must take into account any likely repercussions on the country’s general system of social protection. Kontos said increasing the participation of older people in the labor market represents a challenge. The European Union has set a target for the 55-64 age group to amount to 50 percent of its work force by 2010. In Greece, the rate of participation by the 55-64 group in employment rose from 39.3 percent in 1999 to 42.3 percent in 2006 but remains low in comparison with the European average. The presence of economically active women in this age group is especially low, as it is for all age groups, and is partly due to legislative provisions enabling women to retire earlier than men. «For the government, increasing the participation of older individuals in the labor market is considered an important factor for attaining a more viable economic and social development,» Kontos said. He argued that older working people face an array of disincentives and barriers to being active in the labor market. «Employers usually hesitate to hire older workers or continue to employ them. On the other hand, the older workers themselves often find it difficult to adapt to the reorganization of the production process or find new jobs,» he said. Also, older workers on the whole have less education in relation to the rest of the work force, and their participation in training programs is limited. For this reason, the creation of a national strategy for managing active aging is required, which would include a mixture of incentives and disincentives, Kontos said.

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