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1999 G8 Compliance Report

Compliance with G8 Commitments:
From Birmingham 1998 to Köln 1999

Compliance Studies by Issue Area:
Active Aging

The rapidly ageing populations of the G8 countries pose major challenges for their governments in the next few decades. The G8 governments will be faced with economic, social and political strains and must now, in preparation, develop policies to address the double-barreled demographic challenges of ageing baby boomers living longer and declining birth rates. In the final communique of the 1998 Birmingham Summit each country "confirmed its determination to pursue the concept of active ageing." It also stated that "Measures on active ageing should explore what forms of work are appropraite to the needs of older workers and adapt work to suit them accordingly." Several international organizations followed the G8's focus on older persons and active ageing. The United Nations declared 1999 "International Year of the Older Person" while the World Health Organization made "active ageing" the focus of World Health Day (April 7, 1999). While most of the G8 countries recognized these events with websites, postage stamps and the like far fewer of the "8" had economies healthy enough to support substantive policies or iniatives to expand employment opportunities for older people.

France: (incomplete) Score:

United States: Score: +1

America led the way in meeting its commitment on active aging. Active aging in America was highlighted by the return to space of former astronaut and senator John Glenn. In large part because of this event, aging issues received a great deal of media coverage. President Clinton also proclaimed a National Older Workers Employment Week. But more substantially, the United States also took several other actions which fulfilled its commitment on active aging.

The Supreme Court resolved an issue regarding waivers of employee rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). The decision will require employers to meet all the requirements of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act before waivers by terminated or laid-off workers releasing their right to claims can be considered valid. In the Senate, a bill was introduced to require private firms to provide adequate information to workers whose pensions benefits are being made over. Newer, more flexible types of benefit packages can hurt older workers accustomed to traditional plans which accrue most of their value in the final years of employment. On the state level, California passed legislation making it harder for employers to replace older workers with younger employees. Companies will have to justify that such hiring and firing decisions were truly based on "business necessity."

United Kingdom: (incomplete) Score:

Germany: Score: 0

For several years Germany has been in the process of reforming its costly pension system. A score of 0 is therefore given for a work in progress. The changes underway to the pension system will lengthen peoples' working lives and thereby encourage active aging. The age of retirement for men is rising in monthly steps from 60 to 65 years of age between 1997 and 2001. For women, the age of retirement will rise between 2000 and 2004.

Japan: (incomplete) Score:

Italy: (incomplete) Score:

Canada: Score: 0

The healthy state of the Canadian economy, including the first balanced budget in more than thirty years, allowed Finance Minister Paul Martin to withdraw the 1995 "Seniors Benefit." Orginally launched as an effort to reform and sustain the Canadian Pension Plan while reducing constraints on the budget defecit, the Seniors Benefit has been extremely unpopular with older Canadians resentful of cuts to their pensions. Since 1995 the federal government, in cooperation with the provinces, has also been working on ways to encourage private retirement savings and on reforms to the health care system to ensure its sustainability for ageing baby boomers. By mid-1998 a turnaround in the country's economic prospects, coupled with the success of the fiscal management and structural enhancements to the public pension system, made the withdrawal of the proposed Seniors Benefit possible. (+1)

Despite the booming American economy, Canada still had an unemployment rate of close to 8-9% in 1998-99. In reponse, the government choose to promote youth employment iniatives, instead of promoting employment of older workers. (0)

Russia: (incomplete) Score:

Reports produced by Lorna Schmidt and Allison Smith, May 1999

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