Health promotion and prevention are important building blocks for cushioning the consequences.

SW – 12/2020

Demographic change poses major challenges to politics, the economy and society. Demographic change will also have an impact on social security systems and the sustainability of their financing. This makes it all the more important to analyse the driving forces and seek solutions.

The European Commission took a first step towards this in June 2020. It published its demographic change report, in which it analysed the main drivers and consequences for Europe's social market economy (see reports 6-2020 and 9-2020). It intends to present a Green Paper on ageing in the spring of 2021 based on the findings of this report.

In November 2020, the Commission presented its "Roadmap" to the Green Paper, setting out the objectives of the initiative and the way forward. Accordingly, the Green Paper seeks to open a debate on the long-term implications of demographic change, especially with regard to care and pensions as well as the promotion of active ageing. In this context, it was also necessary to examine whether social security systems were meeting the needs of an ageing population.

The demographic trend poses challenges to the employment, pension and financing concepts within the social security systems, for which solutions must be found. Therefore, the umbrella organisations of the German Social Insurance entered the discussion at an early stage based of the report published in June with an Opinion on issues such as a comprehensive preventive approach to maintaining health and employability, the prevention of old-age poverty and a resilient health and care system.

In view of the declining number of employees subject to social security contributions, the German Social Insurance System has used the roadmap and the consultation initiated to reiterate the importance of maintaining employability in order to sustain the financing of social security systems and for cushioning the consequences of demographic change.

Health promotion and prevention

In order to enable the longest possible and healthy participation in working life, health promotion and prevention should play a central role throughout a person’s entire working life, whilst taking into account changes in potential stresses. A stronger focus on rehabilitation and reintegration strategies, support for individuals in coping with chronic diseases, and cooperating with employers in making work more healthy and in line with ageing throughout a person’s working life will help to maintain employability and reduce the burden on the social security systems, on both the revenue and expenditure sides.

Work design in line with ageing is about creating working conditions that enable employees of all age groups to make full use of their potential, whilst simultaneously avoiding inappropriate physical strain in order to ensure that the demands of the workplace are met up to the normal retirement age.

Job management

However, cases where it is not possible to pursue the occupation until retirement age as the activities involved lead to particular physical or mental stress must also be taken into account. To address these cases, health promotion, prevention and occupational safety measures should be complemented by workplace management and HR development measures, which will provide the involved persons with opportunities for timely career changes and enable them to remain employable.

In addition to addressing the long-term consequences of demographic change with regard to health, care and pensions, these aspects should also be included in the debate, as they are of fundamental importance for active ageing and the maintenance of employability as well as for sustaining the financing of social security systems.