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Working women can help both themselves and the economy

07.02.2013, 17:30 GMT

EU Ministers, in Dublin today, debate the contribution and benefits older women can make as they remain in the labour market

Minister of State for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older Women, Kathleen Lynch TD, today chaired a lively debate of EU Labour and Social Protection Ministers at a workshop in Dublin Castle on the topic of “Older Women and Europe’s Labour Market – Working Together for the Needs of All.”
The workshop formed part of the programme for the Informal meeting of EPSCO Ministers who gathered in Dublin to discuss a range of topical issues.  Minister Lynch introduced the topic and pointed out:
“The economic engagement of older women enables them to ensure that they live outside the poverty trap which is so often experienced by older women, while, at the same time, they can use their talents to contribute to the economic growth and well-being which is so necessary for Europe in the current challenging times”.

Much of the focus of European economic policy is the expansion of our labour market to ensure that Europe remains competitive.

Much of the focus of European economic policy is the expansion of our labour market to ensure that Europe remains competitive.  Europe 2020, the Union’s economic strategy for the remainder of this decade aims to achieve an employment rate of 75 per cent for men and women by 2020.   At present, the figure is only just above 68 per cent. Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, the Commission’s Director for Equality noted:

“There is a strong case for supporting the economic engagement of women in order to attain the Europe 2020 goals. In many Member States, the highest potential to increase employment rates lies with older workers and mostly with older women. Beyond employment, women aged 50 to 65 should also be in focus of pension and active ageing policies, to ensure that they remain in employment more.”

Commission Director General for Employment, Mr. Koos Richelle presented a statistical analysis of the situation and noted that “according to latest data (2012Q3), senior females (age 50-64) had a 56% activity rate compared to a 71.6% rate for males in the same age group” despite the fact that they tend to be better educated and to participate more frequently in lifelong learning.   

Minister of State Lynch pointed out that the statistics suggest that, “there were 14 million men in this age group who were economically inactive, but there were over 22.6 million women aged 50 to 64 years, who were neither at work nor unemployed from a labour market perspective.”   This is a significant gap of some 8 million fewer women than men who are building up their life time earnings and pension entitlements.
Although the focus of Europe 2020 is on economic growth, labour market engagement also enables people, men and women, to increase their pension entitlements.  Minister Lynch quoted EU wide figures which show that, after social transfers (such as state pensions) older women were at much higher risk (at 18.1 per cent) than older men (at 12.9 per cent) of being at risk of poverty.  Extending working life can be expected to increase pension entitlements, reducing the risk of poverty.    Accordingly, the return or retention of older women in the labour market helps both the economy and the lifetime prosperity of the woman – a “win, win” situation.


Read Minister's Lynch address.

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