Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
    GR-SOC
    Rapporteur Group for Social and Health Questions

    GR-SOC(2003)15 17 July 2003
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    Challenges of social policy in our ageing societies –
    Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1591 (2003)
    Elements for reply

    For consideration by the GR-SOC at its meeting on 10 September 2003

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    Background

    1. The Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 1591 (2003) on the challenges of social policy in our ageing societies on 29 January 2003.

    2. The Ministers' Deputies brought Recommendation 1591 to the attention of member state governments at their 828th meeting (13 February 2003) and communicated it to the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS), to the European Population Committee (CAHP) and to the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG) for these committees to take it into account in their future activities and for possible comments by 30 June 2003. On the same occasion, they invited their Rapporteur Group on Social and Health Questions (GR-SOC) to prepare a draft reply for adoption at one of their forthcoming meetings.

    3. The CDCS took note of the recommendation at its 10th meeting in May 2003 (c.f. CM(2003)86, paragraphs 2 and 8). It attaches great importance to Recommendation 1591 and reiterates its wish to undertake additional activities on ageing and regrets that budgetary restrictions make it impossible to make rapid progress in this area. As a first step toward developing a multidisciplinary project on ageing, the Committee instructed the Secretariat to commission a consultant to prepare a report containing a stocktaking of the Council of Europe's work in this field during the past ten years, together with a briefer description of relevant work under way in other international organisations and proposals for new work which might be undertaken by the Council of Europe in the future. The CAHP welcomes the Recommendation and encourages the Committee of Ministers to take action as recommended by the Assembly (CM(2003)92). The CDEG has not made any comment.

    4. The Group is invited to consider the reply drafted by the Secretariat.

    With regard to the Recommendation

    5. The Assembly considers that it is time to rethink social policies in Europe in face of its ageing population. It refers, in particular, to maintaining viable pension systems whilst respecting the standards enshrined in Council of Europe legal instruments, the need to reconcile family and working life and to achieve more equal sharing of paid and unpaid work between genders, to promote greater social solidarity between generations and genders and finally, the need to review migration policies as a means to overcome the ageing and depopulation of the workforce in Europe.

    6. The Assembly accordingly makes a number of recommendations to the Committee of Ministers (paragraph 22).

    Draft reply

    1. The Committee of Ministers welcomes the attention of the Assembly on one of the crucial issues to be faced by member States over the coming years. It has brought Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1591 (2003) on the challenges of social policy in our ageing societies to their attention. The principles set out in the Recommendation underline the need for an interdisciplinary approach in tackling the challenges related to ageing populations, including pension reforms and developing comprehensive and coherent policies for successful ageing. It has accordingly communicated the Recommendation to the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS), to the European Population Committee (CAHP) and to the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG) for these committees to take it into account in their future activities.

    2. The Committee of Ministers considers that activities of the relevant bodies of the Council of Europe are, to a large extent, in line with the measures advocated by the Assembly. In order to provide member States with guidance in their efforts to reform national pension schemes, the CDCS has set up a Reflection Group to examine the consequences of recent European trends and developments in the field of old-age pensions for social cohesion and gender equality. The Reflection Group is, in particular, considering the consequences of private sector funding of old-age pensions. In autumn 2003 it is expected to submit a memorandum to the CDCS containing specific follow-up proposals. Moreover, the Committee of experts on standard-setting instruments in the field of social security (CS-CO), one of whose tasks is to observe pan-European trends and developments in the social security field, held a debate on the consequences for social cohesion of the development of statutory defined contribution pension schemes at its 4th meeting (Strasbourg, 17-19 September 2002). In view of their current importance for member States, there can be little doubt that questions to do with pension reform will remain on the agenda of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers also refers to an important seminar organised as part of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe's Initiative for Social Cohesion in Ljubljana in November 2002 by the Council of Europe and the ILO, with support from Slovenia and France, on restructuring of pension schemes in South East Europe.

    3. Other activities, in the framework of the social cohesion strategy, include awareness-raising and assistance activities concerning the elderly in selected countries, notably to ensure that care and support services for elderly people respect their integrity, autonomy and dignity and enhance their participation and independence. The CDCS is also currently considering ways of strengthening the Council of Europe's work on ageing. The best way of doing so might be in the form of a multidisciplinary project on ageing, designed as a framework for assisting member states in implementing commitments made at the World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid in April 2002. As a first step, the CDCS will prepare an inventory of the Council of Europe's work in this field during the past ten years, together with a briefer description of relevant work under way in other international organisations and proposals for new work which might be undertaken by the Council of Europe in the future. This inventory should be completed by the end of 2003.

    4. Furthermore, the CAHP is engaged in a substantial two-year programme of work on the theme of active ageing. The main focus of the project is to analyse the contributions of the elderly population to society as well as the participation of the elderly in the various domains of social life. A first report, entitled Active ageing in Europe, will be published shortly. The second stage is underway and will include research on “the oldest old” (80 years old and over) and elderly migrants. It is also worth noting that the CAHP has decided in principle to organise a conference on demographic trends and social cohesion. This is expected to take place in early 2005 and to be jointly organised with the Parliamentary Assembly. Although no decision has yet been taken as to the themes of this event, it can be expected that questions to do with ageing will be extensively discussed on this occasion.

    5. Finally, the European Committee on Migration (CDMG) is developing a long term perspective of migration and integration, taking into account, in cooperation with the CAHP, demographic trends, particularly ageing populations.



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