Finland's programme for
ageing workers prevents age discrimination (July 9 1999)
The age structure of the labour force in the EU member states is becoming
increasingly unfavourable, and this trend will still continue during a couple of decades.
The exit of ageing people from the labour market and their risk of permanent exclusion are
some of the central reasons behind the high structural unemployment within the European
Union. Therefore, it is important to develop measures to help ageing people stay at work
and cope with it until their pensionable age.
Last year, Finland launched a National Programme on Ageing Workers, which
will continue until the year 2002. The Programme aims to ensure that more unemployed
ageing people than before can be re-employed, and that those who still participate in
working life can continue to work until their pensionable age. In particular, the
Programme aims at improving the opportunities of people aged over 45 to get work and to
cope in working life.
There is no single remedy to prevent age discrimination. That is why the
Programme on Ageing Workers aims at finding means to improve the vocational skills and
working capacity of both unemployed and employed people in the middle of increasingly
rapid changes. At the same time, the Programme endeavours to change the attitudes of
employers, employees and decision-makers: ageing is not only a weakness it can also
be a strength, if peoples experience gained with years is put to good use both in
work and in learning new things.
One of the campaigns included in the Programme on Ageing Workers concerns
maintaining of working capacity, which is one of the most crucial elements of coping in
working life. Maintaining of working capacity is not restricted to peoples physical
and mental health only it also includes improvement of working conditions and the
functionality of working communities from multiple aspects. Successful measures to
maintain working capacity improves individuals well-being, the atmosphere of working
communities and the productivity of work. As a result, firms can improve their
competitiveness and Finns can live better.
According to a barometer of working capacity published last year, a large
part of Finnish employees are covered by activities to maintain working capacity, but such
activities have not yet become sufficiently established in the everyday working life.
Attention has been paid, inter alia, to safety at work, functionality of working premises,
planning and quality of work as well as cooperation and participation. The objectives of
work have been clarified and the work of superiors has been developed. Employees, in turn,
have been trained for improved skills and supported for the promotion of their physical
and mental health.
Those who answered the questions of the barometer believed that the
activities to maintain working capacity were profitable and improved the working
atmosphere as well as the staffs physical condition and work satisfaction. The
maintaining of working capacity is considered a good investment, and it is also expected
to bring economic profit.
The results of the barometer encourage continued maintaining of working
capacity. In future, the needs for development in workplaces will be examined, and the
content of the measures will be tailor-made for each workplace.
The National Programme on Ageing Workers is implemented by the Ministry of
Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education together
with the labour market organisations until the year 2002. The results of the Programme and
the experiments to be carried out within its framework are expected to provide a
comprehensive material also for the European discussion.