France caught napping as over-50s fall in workforce

10th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 10 (AFP) - France faces an uphill struggle to extend the working life of its senior citizens and now lags well behind its EU partners in implementing a four-year-old initiative.

PARIS, April 10 (AFP) - France faces an uphill struggle to extend the working life of its senior citizens and now lags well behind its EU partners in implementing a four-year-old initiative.

The European Union in 2001 agreed that by 2010 half of the bloc's population aged 55-64 should be employed.

But France was slow to act and by 2003 only 36.8 percent of its 55-64-year-olds were working, or nearly five percentage points below the EU average, according to the employment ministry.

The comparable proportion is 55 percent in Britain, 68.6 percent in Sweden, 60.2 percent in Denmark, 51.1 percent in Portugal, 49.6 percent in Finland and 39.5 percent in Germany.

Studies by bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) attribute France's unimpressive showing - apart from general economic sluggishness - to a preference here for early retirement and for full- rather than part-time workers.

The IGAS institute has also pointed to shortcomings in the country's efforts to improve working conditions and to expand training opportunities, in addition to a low level of public awareness of the need for seniors in the workplace.

The OECD recently recommended that France do away with a system that relieves unemployed workers over the age of 57 from the obligation to look for a job in order to receive benefits.

But a study by IGAS researchers maintained that older unemployed workers in France "suffer such a handicap in the job market, which increases with age and length of joblessness," that the exemption is justified.

The study, published last month in the journal Droit Social, noted that the French retirement system underwent major reforms in 2003.

"There is no single model for success," it said, while acknowledging that France would nonetheless do well to learn from several of its partners.

"In the four countries that have already reached the EU target for working seniors, two follow a Nordic model, Sweden and Denmark, one is Anglo-Saxon, Britain, and one has adopted a southern European model, Portugal," the study added.

In Britain a "new deal" for people over 50 enabled 60,000 people to find jobs over a period of 22 months by offering strong financial incentives to older unemployed workers to take part in a specific job-finding initiative.

In Finland a program begun in 1998 is oriented around measures to improve conditions for older workers, training for people over 45 and an awareness campaign aimed at both employers and workers.

Such awareness is perhaps beginning to be felt in France, where a recent poll showed that 52 percent of those responding predicted that prospects for workers over 50 would "continue to deteriorate."

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article