Economic circumstances and the severe trend in demographic ageing require new approaches to workplace regulation, pension provision, and efforts to tackle gender inequality.

An EU Parliament resolution, adopted on February 16 outlined that despite grave economic circumstances, all Member States must safeguard pension schemes so that they will be in a position to deliver and maintain an adequate income to the ageing and retiring EU citizenry. While the primary onus is on the individual country to re-evaluate and reform their own pension schemes in light of economic difficulties, the EU regards itself as being in a position to coordinate pension schemes as countries may not have placed sufficient money aside to cater for future retirees. Consequently, this would have an impact on the Stability and Growth Pact, an agreement set forth and concluded by the European Council at the Dublin Summit in December 1996 that sets out the rules for budgetary discipline in Member States.

Pensions systems and obstacles

MEPs called on states to initiate adequate reforms to deal with different obstacles. One of those issues arises from persons who may have worked in different EU countries. In this scenario, the Parliament called upon the EU and Member States to remove obstacles to mobility that would in turn address pension transferability problems between states. Also, given the significant gap between the statutory pension age and the age people actually cease working, it is imperative that workplaces become better adapted to the needs of the older employees. There would also be a need for protection against dismissal. It was also stated that because of wage disparities between men and women and the fact that women are deemed more likely to work part-time hours and to take career breaks to rear children, MEPs urged that these inequalities be addressed in relation to retirement benefits.

Green Paper: ‘Towards adequate, sustainable and safe European pension systems

The resolution was adopted in response to a Green Paper issued in July 2010 by the Commission. The report stated that given current economic circumstances and the subsequent associated setbacks and the severe trend in demographic ageing – the EU can help in facilitating an adequate and sustainable retirement income for EU citizens. It noted how sound and adequate pension systems that would enable citizens of the EU to maintain a decent standard of living post-retirement are crucial both for citizens and for social cohesion.