The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting impact on the way we live and work together and it came at a time when Europe had already been going through a period of profound demographic and societal change. Tackling the impact of this change is at the heart of the von der Leyen Commission which published the ‘Report on the impact of demographic change’ on 17th June, that presents the drivers of demographic change and the impact they are having across the European Union.
This Commission Report presents the main drivers of demographic change and the impact they are having across Europe, including the ageing population and declining birth rates resulting in a shrinking working-age population. The paper launches a process that will help identify concrete actions and solutions, mindful of lessons learned from COVID-19, to support people, regions and communities that are most affected and to enable them to adapt to changing realities. Among the key actions, there is the objective to push for a larger and more inclusive labour market, by measures such as boosting the employment rate of women, and allowing both women and men to better reconcile work and family life via the 2020-2025 Gender Equality Strategy; and opening up the labour market to persons with disabilities and reducing the many barriers they face (discrimination, accessibility and more). Health and long-term care systems are also mentioned as a key priority for investment as already enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights with a focus on infrastructure, such as hospitals, long-term care homes and housing adapted and equipped for older people.
While the solidarity between generations is referred to in the report as one of the driving forces of Europe’s recovery, there are few references in the report to the younger generations. Combating youth unemployment is highlighted briefly, and investment in children is mentioned only really indirectly through work-life balance measures. The importance of investing in children is however explicitly mentioned in another report, namely the EPSCO Council conclusions on demographic challenges which makes a series of recommendations including investments in early childhood education and care, breaking the cycle of poverty from generation to generation, financial support to families raising children, delivering a proposal for a Child Guarantee and designating 2023 the European Year for combating child poverty.
COFACE Families Europe will continue to monitor closely EU discussions on demographic change, and closely related initiatives such as :
- the implementation of the EU work-life balance directive;
- the future Green Paper on ‘Ageing and a Long-term vision for Rural Areas’ ;
- the development of a European Child Guarantee.