On 27 January 2021, the European Commission released the Green Paper on Ageing, thus launching a public debate on demographic changes in Europe. The paper addresses the key issues related to ageing and highlights the importance of healthy and active ageing and lifelong learning as the two concepts that can enable a thriving ageing society. It questions how the EU and Member States can promote policies that bring more people into the labour market, as well as enable longer, healthier and more productive lives.
In its submission to the EC’s consultation, Equinet reiterated the need for a rights-based and equality-centered approach to ageing, which shifts the perception of older people from retired, former workers or a homogeneous vulnerable group into persons with intersectional identities and rights, who deserve equal treatment. We underlined that younger people experiencing discrimination at an earlier stage of life, are more likely to encounter inequalities later in life, thus diminishing the possibility of healthy and active ageing. With this in mind, we encouraged the EU and Member States to adopt a life course approach to ageing, that focuses on the potential of all younger and older people in society and guarantees their rights at all stages of life. Through such an approach, discrimination can be prevented from happening in the first place and several of the inequalities that older people acquire throughout life may be eliminated.
In our response to the questionnaire, we also highlighted legal gaps in EU equality law. Despite age-based discrimination being one of the most widespread forms of discrimination within the EU, we pointed out that its prohibition is still limited to the field of employment, occupation, and vocational training by the Employment Equality Directive (Directive 2000/78/EC). We explained what discriminatory practices this results in and suggested ways of reforming the existing EU equal treatment directives, namely by expanding the prohibition of unequal treatment based on age beyond employment to all areas of life.
Finally, we focused on the diversity and inclusivity of both younger and older people in daily life. We provided suggestions on creating more enabling environments, ensuring fairness in access to goods and services, increasing connectivity among persons living in rural and urban areas and decreasing the digital gap. In this way, we tried to bring in an intersectional perspective and make sure that no matter the age, Roma and other ethnic minorities, women, migrants, people with disabilities or from the LGBTQIA+ community all receive equal treatment in all areas and at all stages of life.
Read Equinet’s submission to the consultation here.