“The lack of EU action on reducing poverty of older persons is a denial of their right to live independently and in dignity, enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”, said Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary-General. “Poverty affects 33 million persons over 55 in the EU. Even if the overall share of older people living in poverty has slightly diminished since 2008, pension reforms put at a serious risk specific groups such as women, people with disabilities and with disrupted careers. The EU should take action to guarantee adequate minimum incomes for people of all ages.”
Pensions level to drop, older women and people with disabilities at a higher risk
The pension reforms carried out over the last years have lowered benefit levels and increased requirements on career lengths. Women, who still bear the greatest share of unpaid work caring for children or family members dependent on long-term care, are often unable to have a full career and acquire sufficient pension rights: among those who are 65 and older, poverty rates for older women are 6 percentage points above those for men and the gender pension gap is reaching 40%. Also, people who acquire a disability in their last years before pension age often have no opportunity to continue contributing to the pension system, putting the adequacy of their pensions at risk. According to the European Commission’s Ageing Report 2015, replacement rates of pensions will drop dramatically in a number of countries until 2040, if no legislative changes are made.
AGE: Compare social services and benefits to actual needs to live in dignity
AGE participates in the EU campaign to create adequate minimum incomes across Europe. To measure adequacy, AGE calls for national reference budgets, based on a list of realistic needs to live in dignity. Reference budgets have been set up in some EU member states already, and often they are above the national poverty threshold showing that minimum income schemes are not sufficient to allow dignified living conditions.
Europe 2020 strategy – more action needed
The European Union set itself the target to reduce the number of people living in poverty by 20 million between 2008 and 2020 – however, over 4 million more are living in poverty today. In some countries, reforms promoted by the European semester have raised the out-of-pocket costs of access to health care, reduced housing benefits, etc. AGE has been working on the Semester since its inception and is urging the European Commission and the member states to pay more attention to social issues in the exercise, as well to step up their actions to reduce poverty in all age groups.
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· European Minimum Income Network (EMIN)