The Eurocadres blog

Active ageing needs intergenerational solidarity


High unemployment hits young people and senior people hardest of all. Many workers find themselves out of work when they reach retirement age, while many young people, including young graduates, struggle to find work that corresponds to their qualifications.

Child's hand in older person's hand

The European social partners are launching negotiations in 2016 on the topic of active ageing and intergenerational solidarity.

Intergenerational solidarity is a societal choice.

For senior people, the years leading up to retirement are often stressful. During this time, workers, and those at managerial level in particular, are especially vulnerable to psychosocial risks and burnout. In order to cope with what is a real public health concern, businesses must stop "dumping" their senior workers, and instead adapt so as to accommodate their specific skills and requirements, if they want to be socially responsible.

It is also vital to take into consideration the individual aspirations of workers approaching retirement age: some wish to reduce their working hours, so that they can begin the transition to retirement in the best possible conditions, while others simply want to carry on working full-time in a job that they enjoy until the end of their working lives.

Lifelong learning for engineers and managerial staff should not necessarily mean a move into executive or support roles; rather, it should allow them to continue to hold highly skilled positions until retirement. These senior experts, long regarded as a liability, are in fact a valuable resource for businesses.

Senior people have a great deal to offer their younger counterparts, but younger people also have much that they can share with more experienced colleagues.

The other aspect of European negotiations relates to intergenerational solidarity, and here the concept of mentoring or coaching springs immediately to mind. Mentoring, the value of which is widely recognised, must not be a purely technical transfer of skills. It should also encompass management, and give a sense of "corporate culture". Moreover, it should not be a one-dimensional approach: senior people have a great deal to offer their younger counterparts, but younger people also have much that they can share with more experienced colleagues, meaning greater professional and personal growth in the latter halves of their careers.

Intergenerational solidarity is a societal choice. Employment today is too highly concentrated among the 35-50 age bracket. Many managerial-level employees in this age bracket are consumed by their work, clocking up overtime and working into the evening and at weekends, while their children, who are often more highly qualified, alternate between low-skilled insecure jobs and unemployment. This is not a healthy way to live, and it is not the society that we want for our children.


The author

William Lis (UGICT-CGT/France)
Member of Eurocadres Executive Committee