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Equality at work - between generations and genders

The challenge:

In the next 20 years the EU population of over-65s will grow by 45%, which will lead to increase in age-related spending and to a potential labour gap of 35 million by 2050. The demographic change will have enormous implications on working careers, retirement age and pensions of younger generations. If there is no change in labour market, this will mean unsustainable tax burden for younger generations.

The EU recognises that in order to meet the challenges and enjoy the benefits related to Europe’s ageing demographic trend, it needs to increase e.g. the rate of employment. Thus, the Member States have been given a target to increase the employment rate of 20-64 year-olds to 75% by 2020. It is clear that this requires increasing also the participation rate of women and older people in the labour markets.

At the same time it should be remembered that work is a key contributor to people’s well-being. Thus increasing people’s participation rate in the labour markets, creating more jobs and reducing the unemployment rate help to improve citizens’ well-being and should be promoted.


While the current average employment rate in the EU27 is 68,6%, the employment rate of 55 to 64 year-olds is around 46%. While 45% of men don’t work, the rate is over 60% for women in the age group 55-64.

The EU member States differ enormously when it comes to women’s employment rates in general. Currently Lithuania is the only one country where women’s employment rate is higher than that of men! A major reason for gender gaps in employment can be explained by women’s responsibility as carers.

Possible solutions:

In order to boost women's employment rates, more must be done to encourage reconciliation of work and family life - and especially to encourage men to have a greater role in care. Part-time work should be well-paid and an option for those who are interested in it. It is also good to remeber that equality in the labour markets requires equality at home.

More discussion is needed about longer working careers and abolishment of mandatory retirement age. People should have the possibility to work longer if it is in their interest.  More discussion is needed about reforming pension schemes and encouraging second careers.

Mentoring schemes from old to young and young to old workers, but also among women could help to increase labour participation, allow people to strengthen, utilise and share their skills and expertise, and get the people do the best they can!


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