Activation policies for the young old: an international comparison
Sociology VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
During previous decades, the number of healthy persons past retirement age increased considerably. Those persons are commonly called the young old, because they combine characteristics of younger and of older persons. Like younger persons, they are physically capable of activity. Like older persons, on the other hand, their activities cannot be regulated through labour market policies any more. Welfare state reforms therefore often seek to find ways to steer the young olds' activities in favour of welfare production. They usually do this through activation policies.
Activation policies for the young old usually take two approaches: raising the mandatory retirement age and increasing the involvement in volunteering and informal caregiving. When persons participate in paid work until a later age, future cohorts become young old at a later age, and the size of the future young old population decreases. When the young old become more strongly involved in volunteering and informal caregiving, however, the current young old population increases its contribution to welfare production and takes on a changed social role. Both approaches thus influence the young olds' activities to different ends.
The present paper investigates how European welfare states strive to activate the young old. More precisely, it studies two questions: First, which approaches do welfare states take for activating the young old? Second, what causes welfare states to try to activate those persons? To answer those questions, the development in Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom from 1990 on is studied. Explanatory variables are the size of the young old population, the reform pressure on welfare states and the kind of welfare state.
Preliminary results show that raising the mandatory retirement age is the most popular activation strategy, chosen when reform pressure and the appropriate kind of welfare state combine. This suggests two things. First, welfare states prefer bringing new population groups into their old sphere of influence, instead of developing new tools to activate new population groups. Second, activation policies reflect the situation of the welfare state more strongly than the situation of the population group they target.