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Study visit to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland

Within the study visit to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland, which was a part of the active ageing project „Latvia: Developing a Comprehensive Active Ageing Strategy for Longer and Better Working Lives" (further – study visit), representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland and Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (hereinafter – CIP-PIB) presented active ageing situation in Poland and shared experience and best practice examples in the area of employment and healthcare.

Ilze Zvīdriņa, deputy director of the Labour market policy department of the Ministry of Welfare of Latvia, gave a presentation on active ageing situation in Latvia, paying attention to demographics, labour market situation for older workers and aspects of healthcare that have a significant impact on employment. The presentation also included an overview of the active ageing project goals, tasks, activities and content of the study that is carried out within this project.

Marzena Breza, director of the Senior policy department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland, presented Polish approach to active ageing issues. Active ageing discussion in Poland was raised in 2012 which was the European Year on active ageing and intergenerational solidarity. During this year the Senior policy department and Senior policy council was formed as well as government program that promotes senior citizen participation was developed.

Current demographic situation in Poland is better than the average EU level, but it is projected that portion of older population will increase dramatically during the next 10-20 years. On the other hand, Poland has the worst active ageing index results among EU-27 which indicates unused potential in the area of active and healthy ageing.

In order to improve active ageing situation, Polish government developed following policy planning documents:

  • Government programme for 50+ - aims to promote labour market participation among elderly population. It was decided that a quantitative indicator of progress to achieve this goal will be 50% employment of elderly population before 2020. At the same time, minimum pension age in Poland is going to increase to 67 by 2040 (currently – 65 for men and 60 for women). Therefore, the target age group for this initiative is 60+. This programme aims to develop skills of older workers, enhance productivity and improve health situation among elderly population. Taking into account the size of Poland, a large part of the activities is being implemented on the municipal level, however, coordination and also some activities are planned on the government level.
  • Government programme on social participation 2014 – 2020 aims to increase social participation in the following areas: education, social activities, intergenerational cooperation, and provision of social services.
  • Long-term senior policy approach 2014 – 2020 includes various aspects of active ageing, such as demographics, health and independent living, 50+ professional activity, social activity, elderly people's economic potential, as well as intergenerational relationships.

Main discussion questions:

  • A relatively large part of Polish population has vocational education, but overall elderly population is less educated than younger cohorts. Thus, elderly people are often employed in physically intensive jobs. 50+ involvement in life-long learning is low and employers also do not show enough initiative in educating elderly workers.
  • Since employers are not actively participating in educating elderly workers, Polish government created the National Learning Fund which consists of employer contributions and is used to fund educational activities for workers and situation assessment. Part of the training areas is determined by the social partners. However, currently there are no evaluation of results and appropriate option is currently being discussed within inter-institutional meetings.
  • CIOP-PIB representative pointed out that the number of elderly people in Poland who suffer from depression is much higher than in other EU countries. Therefore, it is essential to ensure appropriate physical and mental work environment for 50+ workers. Discrimination is also very common among elderly workers, mostly due to language and IT skills. It is important to stress positive attributes of older workers – for example, loyalty.
  • Due to population ageing, 80+ cohort is expanding, and demand for social care is growing. The World Bank representative pointed out that a large portion of females are busy taking care of their grandchildren and elderly people in their families, which becomes a barrier for their employment in the labour market. Representative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland informed that social care is currently divided into 2 groups – children and elderly people. Day care facilities for children under 3 years old have been widened during the last few years using ESF funding. Despite the fact that minimum pension age is rising, there is a shortage of social care available for elderly people. Polish government is currently developing a plan of individual social care system for older population. It is planned that 50+ population will be providing those services, which will rise employment figure among older workers. Poland is also planning to establish day care centres for older people in order to promote labour market employment for family members.
  • According to the data, only 20% of people in Poland retire due to health problems. Nonetheless, since pensions and salaries of elderly workers are comparable, there is no incentive to continue working. Polish government established a ceiling for pension and earnings, and if it exceeds the allowable limit, the amount of pension is reduced.
  • Intergenerational relationship is an essential component of active ageing since the number of working people per one senior citizen will be decrease in the near future.
  • The World Bank representative stressed that the focus should not only be on 50+ population, but on society as a whole. Poland established around 500 projects related to the promotion of social activity, but these projects are rarely related to promotion of participation in the labour market.
  • In Poland, large emphasis was put on active ageing information availability. Policy updates, new campaigns and video materials are published on senior.gov.pl.
  • During the development of the active ageing strategy, emphasis was put on consultations, ensuring that recommendations and tasks included in the strategy are fulfilled.

During the visit to the CIOP-PIB, an opportunity to get acquainted with laboratory research activities related to occupational health was given. The device for people with movement problems, which allows to manage computer mouse with mouth, as well as a video that analyses the train driver eye movement evaluating his ability to concentrate and identifies objects that distract him, were demonstrated in the biomechanics laboratory.  Physiology and occupational hygiene laboratory workers demonstrated a way to measure employee effort by analysing his/her breathing.  During the visit, laboratory researchers were working on a system that is intended to provide a specific temperature to each individual in the large room, which could be particularly useful during operations when the doctor and the patient require a distinctly different temperature.  At the same time, in thermic laboratory various tests were performed that tested uniforms under specific conditions – cold, heat, moisture which results in a development of a cold and water resistant material that is much lighter than other materials suitable for such conditions.  Reverberation room was used in order to examine various warning signal audibility. Similarly, virtual reality laboratory was developed in order to test work place adjustments. Work place suitability for people with movement problems can be evaluated in the office environment, but in the coal mine environment it is possible to held trainings.

Main questions discussed after the visit to the laboratory consisted of work-related stress and its impact on health. Additionally, CIOP-PIB informed that it is currently researching the effectiveness of intergenerational cooperation at work, which currently is not a widely researched topic and may produce innovative findings.