Monday, 25 October 2010

Senate campaigns for older people in Wales

Four national older people's organisations are joining to create a senate to give older people a stronger voice in Wales.

The Welsh Senate of Older People will lobby the UK and Welsh Assembly Governments on matters such as age discrimination, housing and health.

The senate has been launched at the assembly in Cardiff Bay.

It will also work to improve a wide range of services to the elderly in Wales.

The four organisations joining together are the National Old Age Pensioners Association of Wales, the National Pensioners Convention Wales, Older People's Advisory Group Cymru and Pensioners Forum Wales.

A spokesperson for the senate said: "The population of Wales is ageing at a faster rate than any other part of the UK, and in 20 years time one in three Welsh adults will be aged 65 or over.

"Older people's issues have become increasingly prominent in recent years and the creation of the senate is a significant milestone in the journey to unite older people the length and breadth of Wales."

Welsh Office Minister David Jones, who launched the senate, said: "Government, both in London and Cardiff, needs to hear about the concerns of older people.

"By 2020, half the population of the UK will be aged 50 and over.

"That is why we genuinely want to hear about the issues facing older people today, so that government action meets their needs."

Orginal article from the BBC

Friday, 22 October 2010

Fears That Abolition of DRA Will Bring More Age Discrimination Claims

Nearly half of employers (48 per cent) surveyed by the employers organisation, the CBI, are worried about an increase in age-related claims after the removal of the national default retirement age (DRA) in April.

The research found that four out of five (79 per cent) of the employers who responded use the DRA of 65, and only 16 per cent have no set retirement age. More than half (60 per cent) think removing the DRA will have a negative impact on younger staff with fewer promotion opportunities and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) are concerned about the readiness of managers to deal with declining performance in the absence of the DRA.

Original article: TAEN

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Impacts Of The Spending Review For Over 50s

George Osborne promised that under the spending review, elderly people would no longer 'fall between the cracks' and many universal benefits were kept. With the spending review being published yesterday, has he remaind true to his word?

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK, said: "Generally Age UK believes that this is a fair deal for older people... We are relieved that universal benefits such as winter fuel payments have been retained."We welcome the Department of Health's decision to find an extra £2bn for social care but at the moment it is unclear whether this will represent a rise in spending in real terms, given the swingeing cut of 26 per cent to government funding for councils. We are disappointed that the Chancellor has presented the entire amount as additional funding whereas it appears unlikely that this is the case.

"People at the end of their working lives will be disappointed that the rise in state pension age has been brought forward by six years as this will impact most on the poorest by shortening the retirements of those living in areas of low life expectancy. However we understand that difficult decisions have had to be made in the current climate."

Ros Altmann of Saga was, however, more critical of the impact on the over-50s. She said: "It will be vital for older people to be able to find work, otherwise they will lose out even more because the Pension Credit, which currently is paid from age 60, will not be paid till age 66 by 2020. That means any men or women who cannot find a job will be forced onto unemployment benefit, which is much less than the Pension Credit available now.
"We need urgent reforms of the labour market, ensuring an end to age discrimination and also making sure that the Government's initiatives for helping people back to work are focussed on older workers, not just the young.

"The most vulnerable are those over-50s who cannot find work, whose private pensions have not worked out or who have fallen victim to the vagaries and failures in the personal finance sector, as well as those who have mental health issues such as dementia. They will lose the option of claiming Pension Credit from age 60 and may be forced onto unemployment and disability benefits which are less generous."

Original Article: Channel 4 News

Monday, 11 October 2010

Commission launches landmark report: 'How fair is Britain?'

A landmark report released today by the Commission paints a picture of a largely tolerant and open-minded society, in which some equality gaps have closed over the past generation.

But ‘How fair Is Britain?’, the most comprehensive compilation of evidence on discrimination and disadvantage ever compiled in Britain, also shows that other long-standing inequalities remain undiminished; and that new social and economic fault-lines are emerging as Britain becomes older and more ethnically and religiously diverse. The Review also identifies recession, public service reform, management of migration and technological change as major risk factors in progress towards a fairer society.

The first in a series of reports laid before Parliament every three years, ‘How fair is Britain?’ draws on a range of major datasets and surveys, as well as the Commission's own research reports, to build a portrait of Britain in 2010. The 700-page report provides the independent evidence and benchmarks for reviewing the state of social justice.

And it identifies five critical ‘gateways to opportunity’ which the Commission says can make the difference between success and failure in life: Health and Well-being: Education and Inclusion; Work and Wealth; Safety and Security; and Autonomy and Voice

The Commission's findings cover all seven areas of formal discrimination set out in law: age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender status. For the first time, it analyses the gaps in treatment and achievement of these seven social groupings beyond solely economic outcomes - by including factors such as personal autonomy and political influence (‘voice’) alongside education, health, standard of living and personal safety.

The three yearly assessment in the Review, mandated by the Equality Act 2006 will:

  • provide an evidence base to ensure that action to tackle inequality and ensure fairness is properly targeted
  • ensure that scarce resources are used in order to protect the vulnerable and disadvantaged from the worst effects of recession, deficit reduction and public service reform
  • set objective benchmarks to assess the ‘fairness factor’ in public policy

The report finds that over recent years, public attitudes have become much more tolerant of diversity, and much less tolerant of discrimination. This can be seen in relation to most of the major equality characteristics, including race, gender and sexual orientation.

Opposition to working for an ethnic minority boss or inter-ethnic marriages has dropped; stereotypical views about the roles that men and women should play in family and society have become less prevalent. And perhaps the most dramatic change is in relation to LGB people: a gap of less than 20 years separated the parliamentary debates about Section 28 and civil partnership.

Evidence suggests that the public is strongly in favour of the generic principles of equality, dignity and respect for all. This consensus was reflected by each of the main political parties, which went into the 2010 General Election with some form of explicit commitment to equality.

However, the Review also highlights areas of anxiety. There is evidence that the public thinks that both racial and religious prejudice are on the increase, though this may reflect heightened sensitivities. British people are broadly positive about the economic contribution of many immigrants, but the ‘immigration paradox’ remains: about three quarters of the public say that they are concerned about the scale of immigration at a national level - but about the same proportion feels that immigration is not a problem for their own communities.

The Review also highlights significant gaps in knowledge and data about particular groups - for example, transgender people - and the impact on our ability to tell whether the ideals of equality and fairness are being translated into a practical change for the better in these people’s real lives.

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

“This Review holds up the mirror to fairness in Britain. It is the most complete picture of its kind ever compiled. It shows that we are a people who have moved light years in our attitudes to all kinds of human difference, and in our desire to be a truly fair society - but that we are still a country where our achievements haven't yet caught up with our aspirations.

“Sixty years on from the Beveridge report and the creation of the welfare state, his five giants of squalor, disease, ignorance, want and idleness have been cut down to size, though they still stalk the land.

“But in the 21st century we face a fresh challenge - the danger of a society divided by the barriers of inequality and injustice. For some, the gateways to opportunity appear permanently closed, no matter how hard they try; whilst others seems to have been issued with an ‘access all areas’ pass at birth. Recession, demographic change and new technology all threaten to deepen the fault lines between insiders and outsiders.

“Our Review has identified the five ‘great gateways’ to opportunity that could open the way to millions.”

The ‘gateways’ identified in the report are

1. Health and Well-being:

  • Men and women from the highest social class can expect to live up to seven years longer, on average, than those from lower socio-economic groups (based on life expectancy at birth).
  • Black Caribbean and Pakistani babies are twice as likely to die in their first year as Bangladeshi or White British babies.

2. Education and Inclusion:

  • Girls achieve better results than boys at age five in England, and at age 16 in England, Scotland and Wales, and in every ethnic group. In 2009 female university students outnumbered men by a ratio of roughly 4:3. Women are also more likely than men to get first-class or upper second-class degrees.
  • Girls and women tend to be concentrated in some courses which tend to lead to relatively poorly-rewarded jobs.
  • Forty-four per cent of Black, Indian and Pakistani students are at ‘new’ universities compared to 35 per cent of others. Eight per cent of Black students are at Russell Group institutions, compared to 24 per cent of White students.
  • Seventeen per cent of children with special educational needs get five good GCSEs including English and Maths, compared to 61 per cent of children without identified special needs.
  • At age five, 35 per cent of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals achieved a good level of development, compared to 55 per cent of pupils not eligible for free school meals.
  • Apart from Gypsy and Traveller children, the performance of White British boys on free school meals at GCSE is the lowest of any group defined by gender, free school meals status and ethnic group; by contrast the highest performing group at sixteen are Chinese girls, with those on free school meals outranking every other group except better-off Chinese girls.

3. Work and Wealth:

  • The mean gender pay gap for women and men working full-time in 2009 was 16.4 per cent; and progress today appears to be grinding to a halt. Women aged 40 earn on average 27 per cent less than men of the same age. Women with degrees are estimated to face only a four per cent loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood, while mothers with no qualifications face a 58 per cent loss.
  • By the age of 22-24, figures suggest that 44 per cent of Black people are not in education, employment or training, compared to fewer than 25 per cent of White people. One in four Bangladeshi and Pakistani women work, compared with nearly three in four White British women, and only 47 per cent of Muslim men and 24 per cent of Muslim women are employed.
  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi men’s earnings fall 13 per cent and 21 per cent below what might be expected, and Black African Christian and Chinese men experience pay penalties of 13 per cent and 11 per cent.
  • Fifty per cent of disabled adults are in work, compared to 79 per cent of non-disabled adults.

4. Safety and Security:

  • Two-thirds of lesbian, gay and transgender secondary students report that they have been victims of often severe bullying (17 per cent of those bullied reported having received death threats). Homophobic bullying also seems to be more common in faith schools.
  • Domestic violence is associated with a higher rate of repeat-victimisation than any other kind of violent or acquisitive crime: in 2009/10, 76 per cent of all incidents of domestic violence in England and Wales were repeat offences.
  • The number of women prisoners has nearly doubled since 1995 in England and Wales, and since 2000 in Scotland.
  • On average, five times more Black people than White people are imprisoned in England and Wales and there is now greater disproportionality in the number of Black people in prisons in Britain than in the USA.

5. Autonomy and Voice:

  • One in eight people in England provide unpaid care to adults.
  • One in four women and nearly one in five men in their fifties are carers.
  • The number of people aged 65 and over with care and support needs is estimated to rise by 87 per cent between 2001 and 2051.
  • It is projected that due to the increasing age of the population, nearly 1.3 million disabled older people will require informal care by 2041 up by around 90 per cent.
  • 175,000 people under 18 have caring responsibilities and a disproportionate number of young carers are from certain ethnic minority backgrounds (including Bangladeshi, Black African, Black Caribbean and Pakistani backgrounds).
  • Women represent less than a quarter of Westminster MPs and barely three in 10 councillors in England. Four per cent of Westminster MPs are from an ethnic minority background.

> Find out more about the 'How fair is Britain?' report


Notes to Editors

For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

More information about the Review can be found on the Commission’s website at:

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.

Counting the Cost of Machismo

Counting the Cost of Machismo

Published: August 17, 2010

PARIS — When Alexandra Pascalidou, a Swedish-Greek writer and television host, joked on a Greek cooking show that dad rather than mom might make dinner for the children, her producer, she recalled, yelled into her earpiece to “cut that feminist nonsense.”

In Italy, a string of sex scandals involving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi did not stop his camp from winning regional elections earlier this year, while further along the Mediterranean coast, the Spanish media routinely obsess more about the defense minister’s outfits than her policies.

Europe’s southern fringe, indebted and uncompetitive, has long been the euro zone’s weak link. But besides a sunny climate and shaky economic fundamentals, it also shares a long-entrenched machismo that is costing it dearly. As it turns out, the share of adult women in the paid workforce in the region lags men by almost 20 percentage points, compared with 12 points across the European Union, 9 in the United States and only 4 in Sweden.

Sexism, of course, is not the cause for Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, and in the short term, the euro’s prospects depend more on the right mixture of fiscal austerity and monetary stimulus than on sisterhood.

But in the longer term, women could well hold the key to overcoming a fundamental economic weakness that plagues not just Southern Europe but much of the rest of the Continent as well: An aging population and a shrinking workforce that is threatening to explode pension and health care budgets.

At stake is the ability of the world’s “lifestyle superpower” to sustain its cushy post-World War II entitlements like early retirement, free medicine and generous jobless benefits — in short, the treasured European welfare state itself.

“If Europeans want to maintain their social infrastructure, they have to get better at integrating women into the labor market,” said Stefano Scarpetta, deputy director of the employment and social affairs directorate at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the research arm of the world’s leading free-market democracies.

As elsewhere in the developed world, women already make up the majority of university graduates in Europe. Luring more of them into paid work would provide multiple dividends: raise economic output, particularly in services; foster greater consumption; and add more taxpayers today and tomorrow.

Kevin Daly, an economist at Goldman Sachs in London, reckons that fully closing the gap between male and female employment rates in the 16 countries sharing the euro would lift gross domestic product by as much as 13 percent; in Southern Europe, the gain would be closer to 20 percent. By contrast, raising trend productivity levels in the euro zone to the level in the United States would result in a 7 percent rise in G.D.P., Mr. Daly calculates.

“The potential gain from raising female participation is significantly larger than from raising productivity,” he said.

That is not to say that governments shouldn’t try to raise both. Indeed, sometimes the policy levers are identical, Mr. Scarpetta of the O.E.C.D. said, pointing to rigid hiring and firing rules in Greece and Italy that protect some unproductive workers and keep more talented women out of a job.

Similarly, while it challenges social traditions, removing tax incentives that keep women at home or raising the retirement age for women where it is lower than for men (Italy and Greece’s public sector, for example) would provide economic benefits at little or no fiscal cost.

Even generous subsidies for child care pay off: A 2002 study by the German Bundesbank found that public investment in day care in Germany on balance increased government revenues as more mothers returned to work.

And perhaps surprisingly, encouraging women to work out of the home also encourages them to have more babies, thus yielding more future taxpayers. Decades of experience in the Nordic countries show that once women are no longer forced to choose between employment and children, both go up.

Sweden, at the forefront of women’s liberation, boasts a female employment rate of 70 percent and a birthrate of about two children per woman, the highest in Europe along with Norway and France.

In Italy, a mere 46 percent of women work, and the birthrate is stuck at around 1.3. (In case you’re wondering: Sweden’s debt-to-G.D.P. ratio is expected to fall below 37 percent this year, while Italy’s future generations will have to shoulder the carrying costs of a whopping 115 percent burden.)

Southern European countries have the most to gain from courting female labor — precisely because the pool of women outside the job market is so large.

In Greece, the employment gap between the genders is almost 25 percentage points. In Italy it is 22 points; Spain, at 14 percentage points, is a lot closer to the E.U. average but still falls short. Portugal does better, with a 10-point gap, owing in part to its specialization in the textile and garment industries.

As an alternative to endless austerity, some politicians in the region have begun to see the economic potential of policies to help close the gap.

“Gender equality is no longer just a human rights issue, but an economic necessity,” said Maria Stratigaki, who is in charge of gender equality in the Greek government. She is using the budget crunch in her country to lobby for more “gender-budgeting” — rules that ensure men receive no more resources from the state than women.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain was the first in the region to put the issue on the agenda, appointing a cabinet that is half women, passing anti-discrimination legislation and requiring companies to appoint more women to their boards.

At 53 percent, Spain’s female employment rate remains below the European average. But if its women over 45 have some of the lowest participation rates in Europe, those under 30 are not that far from Swedish levels.

The first thing Ms. Stratigaki did when she was appointed last November was translate Mr. Zapatero’s gender equality laws into Greek and distribute them in government circles.

“It might be difficult to turn Greece into Sweden — at least right away,” she remarked. “But maybe we can start by becoming a little more Spanish.”

Perhaps the current crisis, said Ms. Pascalidou, who moved from Athens back to Stockholm four years ago, will be remembered as a turning point for working women, just like labor shortages in Sweden in the 1960s served as a catalyst there.

“It’s a window of opportunity,” she said. “There’s nothing like a good economic argument to sell gender equality.”

Friday, 8 October 2010

AGE welcomes the very timely European Partnership Initiative on Healthy and Active Ageing

European Partnership initiative (en français plus bas)

AGE welcomes the very timely European Partnership Initiative on Healthy and Active Ageing

“The European Partnership Initiative that is launched today by the European Commission will help create the supportive environment we need to promote healthy and active ageing and develop innovative solutions for our ageing population”, said Anne-Sophie Parent, Director of AGE. This joint initiative of Vice-President Kroes and Commissioner Dalli will pool efforts at EU and national level to develop both ICT and non ICT solutions to address the challenges faced by older people and support their full participation in society and the economy.

“This Partnership Initiative is very timely. It will seek to build synergies between what is done at European level and actions implemented at national/local level, and will set an excellent framework to encourage a wider range of stakeholders across the EU to work together on the promotion of active and healthy ageing, a key objective of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the theme of the recently announced European Year 2012”, added Parent. The EPI will seek to build bridges between research and market deployment and will promote user’s involvement in research and development of solutions which target them.

“We are happy that the European Commission has decided to adopt such a comprehensive approach. This should ensure that older people will be empowered to take full advantage of the knowledge society and to live independent and active lives for as long as possible”, concluded Ms Parent.

Link to the EC press release: