Prolonging working life and an ageing workforce are at the centre of CBSS-led project

As we are living longer lives while our active population is shrinking due to low fertility rates, the just-concluded Baltic Sea Labour Forum for Sustainable Working Life project looked into issues crucial for the socio-economic growth in the Baltic Sea Region: how to prolong working life and support active ageing.

To address the double-issue of a shrinking and ageing working population, the “Baltic Sea Labour Forum for Sustainable Working Life” project looked into active ageing and the employability of older age groups. 

The project, which was managed by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and ran for 3.5 years, specifically focused on the working population in the age group of 55+ in the Baltic Sea Region, and on how to support the improvement of working life conditions and to establish systems and policies for an older labour force.

“We are living longer lives. In combination with low fertility rates, that’s a huge issue because it leads to a shrinking and ageing labour force,”

Josefina Halme, the CBSS-based officer who oversaw the implementation of the project 

Between 2016 and 2060, the proportion of the 65+ age group in the EU is expected to grow from 19.3 percent to 29.0 percent. At the same time, the working population is projected to shrink by 11.6 percent.

To help overcome the challenges posed by ageing populations and meet the current and future needs of the labour markets in the Baltic Sea region, the project developed policies for an older labour force – 55 years and above – in support of their employability, the improvement of working life conditions and lifelong learning.

As part of the project, two working groups were established, respectively dealing with working conditions and age management, and with entrepreneurship and job opportunities and for an ageing labour force. 

Supported by policy-relevant research on forecasting and analyzing labour market issues, including a “future work” and “qualifications needed” perspective, technological developments and trends in the region, the working groups particularly took into account socio-economic and socio-cultural differences between countries in the region, remembering that the national contexts of the countries differ considerably in the region.

“In the Baltic Sea region, we need a common approach when it comes to an ageing workforce, but also tailored strategies that respond to the different national needs and specificities,”

Josefina Halme

Under the project, several country reports were developed to highlight the national specificities regarding older workers and to present some of the best practices in the region. In addition, the project also developed a toolbox for transnational cooperation and established a network of experts on the topic in the region.

After more than three years of intensive cooperation between employer organisations, trade unions, ministries, social insurance providers, European Social Fund (ESF) managing institutions, NGOs dealing with grassroot initiatives and academia from the CBSS member states, the project has resulted in 10 policy briefs, a final report with policy recommendations aimed at extending working lives, and seven country reports.

“The issue of age concerns us all and not just the elderly – especially the way we look at ageing, health, lifelong learning working conditions,” said Halme. “We need to look at ageing in the most holistic manner, and that’s what the project did.”

The project was managed by the Council of the Baltic Sea States, or CBSS, in partnership with the Lewiatan Employers’ organization and the Entrefox project of the Turku University of Applied Sciences. It was funded by the Swedish ESF Council, with additional funding from the Swedish Institute for third-country participation by non-EU countries.

10 Policy Briefs

Throughout the project, 10 policy briefs on the ageing workforce have been released in the Sustainable Working Life series. The policy briefs compare the situation in the countries and cover the most important areas of the sustainable working life: 

  • digital and ICT skills development,
  • age discrimination, 
  • early retirement due to poor health and working conditions,
  • influence of the academia working environment,
  • future work and technological change,
  • public employment services,
  • senior female entrepreneurship,
  • lifelong learning, 
  • impact of Covid+ on workers 50+.

Policy recommendations 

The main outcome of the project is the ”Policy recommendations for a longer working life” final report which contains 94 policy recommendations on prolonging working life in the Baltic Sea Region. The report looks at the challenges regarding an older workforce in a holistic manner, and also provides specific policy recommendations for groups of countries with similar national contexts. The policy recommendations are divided into four major thematic areas, namely working conditions and health, employment and lifelong learning, equality in terms of age and gender, and socio-economic measures.

Country reports

As a complement to the project documentation, seven individual country reports have been produced to highlight how different the working life situation is depending on each country. They present a short overview of the national policies of the countries involved in the project: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland.

Network of experts

In addition to the documentation outcome and final recommendations, the project has allowed to create a space for a wide network and broad cooperation between sustainable working life experts in the region. It has become a platform for mutual learning, experience exchange, and discussions that will live far beyond the project.