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Europe’s demographic time bomb

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Europe’s demographic time bomb

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To find out what is being done to combat Europe’s ageing population problem Insiders spoke to Monika Queisser, Head of Social Policy with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Sophie Claudet: Could you tell us what can be done basically to address this ageing Europe? We’ve seen that Germany has taken in more migrants, we see that many people are thinking of lengthening working life. What kind of measures can be taken?

Monika Queisser: The solution to the ageing challenge in Europe will lie in a mix of different measures. What we need first of all is for people to work longer. In many countries people are still leaving the labour market at quite early ages and, as they are living longer and healthier lives, they will have to work longer in order to pay for the pensions. That is one the solutions to the problem.

Other solutions are to mobilise all the available talent that today is not fully utilised in Europe’s labour markets. One of the important areas here is more gender equality in the labour markets. We have many women in many countries not working full-time, working only part-time because they have no possibility to get childcare or because not enough jobs are offered for them on a full-time basis. So, mobilising female talent in the labour market is another important answer to the ageing challenge.

Migration and in the inflow of migrants is of course another opportunity to address the ageing challenge. We have lots of people coming into Europe who have a good educational background, who can be integrated in the labour market…

Sophie Claudet: And what do you have to say to the argument that if people work longer, less opportunities will be created for the younger on the job market?

Monika Queisser: We have heard for many years that making people work longer at older ages will take away jobs for the young. This is not supported by the evidence that we see. We have some countries, for example France, where people leave the labour market at fairly early ages in international comparison and yet, for many years, we have seen high unemployment rates among the young in France.

Sophie Claudet: Okay.

Monika Queisser: Countries that do well in their labour markets and economies provide jobs both for young and for older people. It is not a simple switch between jobs for the young and jobs for the old. The jobs that come into the market are not always the same skill so you cannot just ‘pension off’ somebody and then assume that the same job will be performed by a younger person. So our objective has to be to mobilise everybody, old people, young people, women, people who come from other countries, migrants, in order to have an inclusive society and have inclusive growth. It is not about switching jobs around between the young and the old.

Sophie Claudet: Well, thank you very much for your insight.

Monika Queisser: Thank you.

OECD info on European population structure and ageing.

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