Europe's Political Economy

Second Career Labour Markets Project


In the coming decades, pension ages will rise all over Europe. People are living longer, are healthier and are fitter, allowing them to participate in society far beyond the age of 60. With life expectancy increasing and working age populations shrinking, European countries cannot afford to pay pensions as they have done before, and need to find innovative solutions to tackle the major social and economic challenges posed by these demographic trends. In addition to abolishing early retirement schemes to increase actual retirement ages, it is essential to enable older workers to remain economically active and enhance their employability and/or facilitate opportunities for self-employment and entrepreneurship. However, it is less clear how, on one hand, older workers can be encouraged to stay in the labour market and, on the other, how the labour market must be assembled to enable later retirement.

This joint project, launched in 2012 by the EPC and the Bertelsmann Stiftung, assessed and debated the following key questions:

  • How should labour market institutions be reshaped in order to provide easier access to employment and to improve opportunities to remain an active member of the labour force
  • How can enterprises contribute to enhancing employment opportunities via organisational changes and demographically-aware HR policies?
  • How can workers themselves (with the support of public institutions) take more initiative to maintain and improve their employability, both in terms of health as well as skills and knowledge?

This project aimed to stimulate debate on ‘active ageing at work’ by identifying, analysing and comparing good practices among actors responsible at EU Member State level for creating job opportunities for older workers, including governments, social partners and companies. To provide guidance for other older workers, this research was complemented by a series of showcase interviews with elderly people who have successfully established ‘second careers’ – as employees or as self-employed – in the sense that they enjoy personally satisfying employment at older age.

Along these lines, the project structure was made up of three interrelated work packages:

  1. The preparation of a comparative study, combining existing research with recent trends and innovative examples of best practice across Europe at the levels of government, social partners, industry and the individual.
  2. The preparation of concrete policy recommendations by a Task Force that outlined the key determinants of successful role models and extract promising approaches for initiatives, while taking into account the input of interviewees.
  3. A Launch Conference kicked off the project and debated key issues with a number of distinguished policymakers (June 2012), and a Closing Conference presented the final comparative study and concrete policy recommendations to politicians, the public and the media (December 2012).

Click here to download - project film - film clip older worker.

Project duration: The project ran from 1 April 2012 to 31 December 2012 (9 months).

This project was co-chaired by Hans Martens, EPC Chief Executive and Aart De Geus, Member of the Executive Board of the Bertelsmann Foundation.

For more information on this project, please contact Laura Naegele, Bertelsmann Stiftung. Tel: + 32 (0)2 233 38 97; email: laura.naegele@bertelsmann-stiftung.de

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