Societies Facing an Ageing Population. The Challenge of Employment after 45
A year after France re-embarked on reforming pensions in order to cope with an ageing population and the large numbers of baby boomers who will retire in the next few years, it is a safe bet that nothing will be sorted out as regards the social implications of an ageing population. Indeed, as Anne-Marie Guillemard points out in this article, ageing affects every aspect of life in industrialized countries (ways of working, leisure time, life cycle, etc.), and to carry out a reform of pensions without including a section devoted to employment will not resolve the problem as a whole.
In this article, Anne-Marie Guillemard examines the key issue of employment and, in particular, how the work of older people is handled, comparing the situations in the main industrialized countries. After showing how the activity rates of workers over 45 years of age have changed over the last 30 years in these countries (basically the members of the European Union, the United States and Japan), which brings out clearly the differences in the way that work in the second half of professional life is managed, the author offers a typology of employment and social protection policies and cultural attitudes to age, and she discusses the impact of these institutional arrangements on the activity of older workers - activity which must be increased in an ageing society.
In France and, more generally, continental Europe there is a culture of early withdrawal of older workers from the labour market, which results in lower activity rates and yet does not resolve the problems of unemployment. These countries will need to undergo a real "cultural revolution" if they are to reverse this trend and adopt policies closer to those found in Scandinavia. The author reckons that in fact the Finnish "plan for employment for those over 45" could be taken as a model and would promote lifelong learning and training courses for those in work as well as encouraging older people to work. This would require an interventionist employment policy, drawn up with the agreement of all the social partners concerned, and would mean taking a long-term view of the life cycle with the aim of maintaining people's skills and employability throughout their working lives.