Foreword by the FFPE's President, Pierre-Philippe Bacri
Opportunities for 55+ colleagues: the FEDERATION's proposals
Sooner or later, all the institutions' officials and many other staff are going to join the
"55+" group. The institution should therefore make the best use of their talents
throughout their careers: not just in its own interest, but also to promote job-satisfaction
(the two goals are mutually supportive).
The raft of measures that the Commission has adopted over the past two years,
centred on "talent management", make no reference to the fate of the over 55s,
although they make up 20% of Commission staff and that proportion is continually
Know-how, experience, loyalty, and institutional memory, or a wasted resource?
The 55+ group has a lot of cards up its sleeve. Whatever position colleagues occupy in
the organigram, they have particularly precious practical experience, independence,
and a sense of European public service that is particularly relevant in the current
climate of widespread denigration of the European project.
Despite this, most of these colleagues, whether ASTs, ADs, or other staff, are blocked
in their careers and, as a result of reorganisations, can find themselves relegated to a
position identical or comparable to that of newcomers, with nothing to look forward to
other than a tedious - and, for some, excruciating - wait for their retirement.
Let's go beyond stating the obvious and move to a policy built on concrete
The Commission started to take an interest in the fate of those colleagues in 2008 by
mandating EPEC to survey the motivation of 50+ colleagues (who have become 55+
today). It then created a working group in 2010 in line with the conclusions of that
study. After a number of meetings of that group, and a day of events organised by
DG HR in 2012 around the theme of the European year of active ageing (you can
consult the study and the documents here), the process seemed to run out of steam at
the diagnostic stage.
In the document produced by the Joint Committee on Equal Opportunities in 2016
entitled "a better workplace for all: a strategy for diversity and inclusion", this earlier
work has alas resulted in nothing more than vague suggestions. The document, which
is still a draft, uses the ambiguous expression "active ageing", which seems to
assimilate the 55+ group with early retirement and, moreover, has nothing but hollow
words to offer.
The FEDERATION must draw the following conclusion: either DG HR does not have
the means to act, or it is in no hurry to do so. In either case, it is a great shame, both
for the colleagues concerned and the institution…
There is so much that the Commission could do to fight age discrimination, especially
as it is encouraging Member states to make greater efforts to ensure that an ageing
population remains fruitfully employed in the fairest and most rewarding manner. The
problem is that the Commission forgets to apply those valid principles to its own staff.
Widen the reflection and act quickly
The FEDERATION requests the immediate opening of negotiations with the Commission with a
view to reaching a quick agreement on concrete and decent measures for the over 55s. For the
FEDERATION, these should include, in particular:
- the establishment of a network of mentors to make full use of the skills and experience of the
- wider access to training, both in-house and outside;
- the creation of "chargés de mission" posts reporting directly to managers;
- better use of advisor posts;
- an end to the barrier to management positions for the over 55s.
To prepare these concrete measures, long-awaited by the colleagues concerned, the
FEDERATION sets out a precise list of proposals in this Memorandum.
They would have almost no budgetary impact for the Commission. Their implementation is thus
essentially a matter of good will.
The FEDERATION is firmly committed to giving due recognition to and making the best
possible use of the over 55s inside the Commission, in a "win-win" approach.
The FEDERATION stands ready to engage, as soon as possible, in a debate with DG
HR with a view to agreeing on some concrete measures, together with a precise
timetable. The guiding principles on active ageing adopted by the Council in 2012 could
provide a starting point for the review and implementation measures.
I. The context inside the European Union
1. The Commission position
2. The Council position
3. The position of European social partners
II. The context within the Commission
III. The FFPE's recommendations: to act at once to implement the Council's
2012 declaration and its guiding principles
At the moment, nearly 33.000 officials work for the Commission, of which nearly
20% are 55+1. The situation of the more than 3.000 staff with an open-ended
contract is comparable.
1 More precisely, the figures for 2016 indicate that of a total of 32.966 officials, 18,6% are 55+.
The 55+ group make up an important part of Commission staff. It is therefore
even more astonishing that the Commission has never adopted any real
strategy to promote and make the best use of the age group’s potential. The
55+ group in fact has many qualities: know-how, institutional memory and
In the context of frequent mobility inside the Commission, the 55+ group very
often act as a stabilizing force.
Through this Memorandum, and particularly in its first chapter, the
FEDERATION recalls the Commission's proposals in relation to active ageing
as well as those of the OECD.
The FEDERATION also welcomes the recent agreement of the European social
partners on active ageing (8 March 2017), which is further proof of the
importance of this issue.
The second chapter deals with the initial reflexions launched by the
Commission to ensure the optimal management of active ageing within its
The third chapter sets out the concrete proposals that the FEDERATION is
tabling, the goal being the adoption of a comprehensive strategy, with a precise
timetable. The strategy aims at promoting and making the best use of some
7.000 officials of the Commission, in a clear "win-win" approach.
I. The context in the European Union
1. The Commission position
Both the Commission and the OECD played a crucial role in re-launching, and
even imposing, consideration of the issue of active ageing (or "professional
ageing") at the beginning of the 2000's.
The two institutions developed a comprehensive approach linking reform (and
the sustainability) of the pensions system to active ageing.
The OECD acted as a pioneer, producing studies and reports on active ageing,
in particular through a series of reports describing the situation in twenty
The Commission then took a prominent role in this debate, by introducing the
objective of active ageing in its employment strategy. Several of the strategy’s
guidelines emphasise the need for measures aimed at prolonging active lives
and supporting life-long learning strategies, etc.
Additionally, the Stockholm European Council in 2001 constituted, in a certain
manner, the consecration of active ageing by setting a concrete target: a 50%
employment rate for people aged between 55 and 64.
More recently, in 2012, the Commission further developed its position in the
document "The EU's contribution to active ageing and to inter-generational
The then Commissioner, Mr ANDOR, was very clear in his foreword:
"We tend to forget that population ageing is a major achievement – the result of
healthier living conditions and medical breakthroughs that reduce premature
mortality. Yet it is undoubtedly true that the rapid ageing of Europe’s population
over the coming decades and the upcoming retirement of the ‘baby-boom’
generation present real challenges.
The key is to support active ageing across all aspects of life, from professional,
community and familial activities to the capacity to age healthily and
independently. This will be the basis for solidarity between generations in the
years to come.”.
Active ageing starts in the workplace
A third of Europeans said recently in a Eurobarometer survey that they would
like to stay in work after they have reached their pensionable age, though not
necessarily full time. But not many Europeans currently get the chance to do so.
There needs to be a change in attitude to ageing, pushing the divide between
‘young’ and ‘old’ ever upwards, as our life expectancy increases, and increasing
our appreciation of the support and experience older people can and do offer in
all areas of life.
It is a vast agenda to which all levels of government, businesses, trade unions
and civil society must contribute. The main policy instruments are in the hands
of policymakers in Member States. However, the European Union has a role to
play in this regard. It can mobilise a wide range of policy instruments to support
Member States and other stakeholders in their efforts.
According to the Commission, active ageing means three things:
1. Enabling both women and men to remain in employment longer – by
overcoming structural barriers (including a lack of support for informal carers)
and offering appropriate incentives, many older people can be helped to remain
active in the labour market, with systemic and individual benefits.
2. Facilitating active citizenship through enabling environments that harness the
contribution that older women and men can make to society.
3. Enabling both women and men to keep in good health and to live
independently as they grow older, thanks to a life-long approach to healthy
ageing combined with suitable housing and local infrastructure allowing elderly
people to remain in their own homes as long as possible.
The Commission explains that Europe can respond to the demographic
challenge only through active ageing; its prosperity and social cohesion depend
Active ageing is also an essential part of the Europe 2020 strategy. Its success
depends to a large extent on enabling older people to contribute fully within and
outside the labour market. Older people have to be empowered to remain active
as workers, consumers, carers, volunteers and citizens.
Active ageing is the basis for solidarity between generations – one of the EU's
goals enshrined in Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty.
In a 2014 Report2, the Commission drew the lessons from the 2012 European
Year on active ageing. The Commission recalled the key objectives achieved:
raising general awareness of the value of active ageing and ensuring that it is
accorded a prominent position on the policy agenda and promoting activities in
several Member States to help to combat age discrimination and to overcome
age related stereotypes.
2 COM (2014) 562
The report recalls that the Commission, despite a limited budget (5 million
Euro), obtained very good results. In fact, the several events organised during
the 2012 European Year highlighted best practices. The Commission also
recalled that the European Union's database strongly improved information
exchange in relation to best practices and success-stories.
Several events during the European Year also highlighted the need to fight
against age discrimination but, possibly even more importantly, the momentum
created encouraged some Member States to strengthen their national
programmes against active ageing or to launch new ones (for instance, AT, ES,
BE, IE and PL).
The 2012 European Year was also instrumental in the creation of an active
ageing index, to measure different dimensions of active ageing and quantify
untapped potential for each country. The index should help policy makers to
identify challenges and untapped potential for older people's more active
participation in the economy and society and allow the monitoring of progress.
Finally, the report highlights two major EU instruments that could promote active
ageing: the European Semester (which is the European economic governance
tool "par excellence", through which recommendations in favour of longer
careers are sent to most Member States) and the European Social Fund, which
gives high priority to the active ageing issue.
2. The Council position
The Council's position was fixed through the declaration adopted on 7
December 2012 showing the path to follow in relation to active ageing and inter-
Although the Council does not always clearly distinguish between retired
workers and older workers still in work, the declaration is certainly useful.
The Council welcomes the political momentum created by the European Year of
Active ageing and stresses that Active ageing addresses several challenges:
- a demographic challenge ("demographic change can, among other things, be
successfully tackled through a positive life course approach that focuses on the
potential of all generations and particularly of older age groups");
- a social challenge ("promoting participation in the labour market, through
actions for the involvement of younger and older people in training and life-long
- and, finally, a citizen challenge ("The right of the elderly to participate in social,
economic, cultural and civic life is embedded in the EU’s commitment to active
Nevertheless – and we will come back to this – the most important part of the
declaration is the annexed guiding principles (see the Chapter on the FFPE's
3. The position of European social partners
As further proof of the strategic importance of the active ageing issue, it is
worthwhile mentioning that European social partners (BusinessEurope,
UEAPME and CEEP representing employers and ETUC trade unions) signed
an agreement on 8 March 20173 on active ageing and an inter-generational
approach. As indicated by the social partners themselves "the agreement is to
ensure a healthy, safe and productive working environment and work
organisation to enable workers of all ages to remain in work until legal
retirement age. It is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience
between generations at the workplace and takes into account the changing
national demographic and labour market realities".
II. The context inside the Commission
The conclusion is relatively simple: while the Commission has been active
(through the adoption of the 2012 European Year for active ageing) in stressing
the strategic importance of active ageing, be it from an economic, demographic
or social angle, it has been weak in designing and – more importantly – in
implementing a strategy for its own staff.
The conclusion is self-evident: whatever field you consider, the winning team is
the one that best combines enthusiasm and experience, motivation and know-
how, dynamism and vision.
It is easy to give examples: football fans know that a team made up only of
young people can never win a championship. Young people need the support
and guidance of more experienced players. Similarly, a team made up of
"veterans" only has little chance of achieving its goals.
In the private sector, the situation is exactly the same: since 1979, the famous
car industry manager, Lee Iacocca, after having saved the Ford company, was
asked to save the Chrysler company, a giant with feet of clay. It is worthwhile
reading how he managed to save the company: one of the key elements of his
recipe was the composition of his team.
Lee Iacocca did not hesitate to recruit young dynamic executives but, at the
same time, also decided to surround himself with experienced managers (some
were already retired!) since his intimate conviction was very simple: the
constitution of a winning team depends on the combination of enthusiasm and
know-how, youth and experience.
In Europe, several companies, such as Crédit agricole, have signed
agreements with their trade unions to promote active ageing and, in Belgium,
the Minister for Employment launched an awareness campaign in favour of
active ageing, stressing the concrete measures already adopted by the Belgian
government on this issue.
Thus, in the private sector, when a company's future is at stake, or simply when
managers want to improve their companies' performance, they do not hesitate
to diversify staff and to integrate older workers.
The first objective of a company is to be competitive (and profitable), not to act
The use of older workers is motivated by economic reasons; it is fully justified
by the fact that experienced workers bring an indisputable added value.
Needless to say, it is up to managers to make the best use of that resource and,
to do so, they must make sure that they have a clear vision. When such a vision
exists and is clear, workers' motivation is ensured, whatever their age, as is
their strong commitment to work together to achieve common goals.
So, if the private sector plays the diversity card, why shouldn't the public sector
do the same?
Several research projects, European and American, totally agree: in the years
to come, keeping older workers in the labour market will be an economic and
social must. We need to prepare for that sooner rather than later and to address
it through concrete strategies.
The European Foundation for the Improvements of Living and Working
conditions (EUROFOUND) looked further into the issue, through two reports
that highlight the impact of the recession on age management policies in some
Although we recognise that the talent management package adopted by the
Commission in 2016 lays the foundations for a comprehensive strategy for the
European public service, the strategy does not include active ageing, which
concerns 20% of European staff.
While the Commission, through its documents, stresses the need, for both
economic and social reasons, to promote active ageing, it too often gives the
impression that, when it has to apply it to its own services, it is not much more
than wishful thinking4.
4 The Commission ordered an EPEC study on the motivation of colleagues 50+ (who,
by now, are 55+). Building on the conclusions of this study, the Commission set up a
working group. After several meetings of this group and after a session organised by
DG HR in 2012 in the context of the European Year on active ageing (link to the study
and the documentation linked to the 2012 session), the Commission's did not go
beyond the diagnostic stage.
Furthermore, one has the feeling that the over 55s are treated as future
That approach is unrealistic, unfair and discriminatory.
Unrealistic because today we live longer and in better health.
The over 55s still possess all their intellectual capacities; they are, in fact, at
their pinnacle. At that age, whatever their hierarchical position, they still need
professional motivation and career perspectives.
The Commission too often gives the impression that, at that age, the main
priority is to have a comfortable chair, better work-life balance and proper
preparation for a peaceful retirement.
That approach does not match reality: the over 55s are in fact an added value
for the European public service, not a burden. In fact, they are greatly attached
to the European project and to its values and they have proved their merits over
This approach is unfair and discriminatory, since if a 55+ official has worked
well over the years and keeps doing so, why should she/he have (de facto) no
(adequate) career perspectives?
We have been told that several Directors-General informally tell their Directors
not to appoint Heads of Unit over 55.
This state of affairs is a double discrimination for the 55+ officials: not only are
they de facto excluded from management positions but they also have little
chance of being appointed deputy Head of Unit since "young" Heads of Unit will
prefer young deputies, rather than ones who are too experienced.
The conclusion is in fact that different career paths should be envisaged, to
match reality more closely. The Commission must not be afraid to think "out of
the box", because innovation is a must, not an option.
The ultimate goal is to integrate the over 55s properly and to use their qualities
and experience better.
In fact, there is already a text that could be provide a solid basis for that: the
declaration adopted by the EPSCO Council on 6 December 2012, which
includes a number of specific guiding principles on active ageing.
Some of them are already fit for purpose. They only have one downside: they
have never been applied to the Commission.
The FFPE's proposals
For the FEDERATION, it is clear that we must act rapidly on active ageing.
The FEDERATION proposes that the Commission adopt, without further delay,
a comprehensive strategy on active ageing, with concrete measures and with a
To avoid starting from scratch, the FEDERATION proposes to implement the
guiding principles annexed to the Council's 2012 declaration.
The FEDERATION is ready to contribute to the drafting of this text.
To implement the key guiding principles of the Council's declaration
The preamble to the declaration is clear as is the analysis that underpins it.
It is nevertheless at the level of the guiding principles that work must start. The
FEDERATION can support the 19 principles; some of them, in particular, clearly
show the way ahead. They fit well with the FEDERATION's proposals from
. Age management strategies: Adapt careers and working conditions to the
changing needs of workers as they age, thereby avoiding early retirement.
This is a key principle. Whatever the hierarchical positon of a 55+ official, it
is clear that she/he cannot be denied any career perspective.
The key words here are "adapt careers".
The FEDERATION is prepared to put forward concrete proposals, beyond
the ones already proposed (end the barrier to management positions for the
55+, with quantifiable targets; refrain from mandatory mobility for the 55+ or,
at least, allow for mobility in line with their expectations and capacities;
creation of "chargés de mission" posts reporting directly to managers).
. Prevent age discrimination: Ensure equal rights for older workers in the
labour market, refraining from using age as a decisive criterion for assessing
whether a worker is fit for a certain job or not; prevent negative age-related
stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards older workers at the work
place; highlight the contribution older workers make.
The principle of non-discrimination based on age is fundamental; it
constitutes the essential corollary to the previous principle and is central for
a comprehensive and effective strategy on active ageing.
. Transfer of experience: Capitalise on older workers' knowledge and skills
through mentoring and age-diverse teams.
This principle rightly highlights the need for "mentoring"; the Commission
has acted on this already, but needs to be more active and committed. This
is an avenue which can clearly be an example of a "win-win" approach. The
FEDERATION reiterates its proposal to establish an effective "mentoring"
. Life-long learning: Provide older people with learning opportunities, notably
in areas such as information and communication technologies (ICT), self-
care and personal finance, empowering them to participate actively in
society and to take charge of their own life.
The right to vocational training, both internal and external, must apply to all
officials, even more so to those over 55.
. Participation in decision making: keep older women and men involved in
decision-making, particularly in the areas that directly affect them.
This is a general principle that the FEDERATION supports, and even more
so if linked with the principle related to the age management strategy.
The Commission must implement, as soon as possible, the guiding principles of
the 2012 declaration on active ageing; it must widen the reflexion and debate
and must identify best practices within Directorate-Generals related to active
The Commission should then share and promote those best practices.
If our aim is to have stronger European institutions and a stronger Commission,
then we clearly need to involve all colleagues, of all categories and ages.