Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Database of labour market practices

This database gathers practices in the field of employment submitted by European countries for the purposes of mutual learning. These practices have proven to be successful in the country concerned, according to its national administration. The European Commission does not have a position on the policies or measures mentioned in the database.

Netherlands Temporary Subsidy Regulation to Stimulate Age-awareness policies
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Original Title: Tijdelijke Subsidieregeling Stimuleren Leeftijdsbewust Beleid
Country: Netherlands
Responsible body: Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid - SZW)
Name(s) of other organisations involved (partners / sub-contractors): Consulting firms (TNO and Human Capital Group); Small and medium size organisations; Large enterprises
Start Year of implementation: 2004
End Year of implementation: 2010
EU policy relevance:

The measure is consistent with the Europe 2020 Strategy, and especially with the flagship initiative “An Agenda for New Skills and new Jobs”. Specifically, this measure supports the overall 75% employment rate target defined in the Europe 2020 Strategy.

In addition, it is in line with the Employment Guidelines to increase labour market participation and develop a skilled workforce through improvement of lifelong learning opportunities. The Lisbon Strategy likewise addresses the importance to increase the labour market participation among 55-64 year-old workers.

National labour market context:

The Dutch labour market is facing major challenges due to its ageing population.

In recent decades, the participation rate of people aged 55-64 has increased significantly and in 2008 almost half of those in this age group were in employment. However, policy measures, implemented in the 80s and 90s, encouraging early retirement impacted on the level of unemployment and attitudes towards older workers. As a consequence, the employment rate of people aged over 60 was still particularly low and only one in four was in employment.

Additionally, during the implementation of the measure in 2008, the rate of ‘life-long learning’ in the Netherlands was far lower compared to Denmark, (17% against 30%), demonstrating the minor level of attention to age management when compared to other northern European countries.

Policy area: Education and training systems, Labour market participation
Specific policy or labour market problem being addressed:

The main problem being addressed was the low participation rate of elderly workers in the labour market and their decreasing employability due to skills obsolescence, health issues and negative attitudes towards this group.

The lack of awareness of the benefits of skills investment among employers was also an obstacle to the development of a life-long learning approach to effectively increase employability of older workers.

In 2008, the Labour Market Participation Commission highlighted a possible future shortage of workers in the Dutch labour market rather than shortage of work.

The National Action Plan on Employment, launched in 2009, identified “structural non-participation” of older workers as a key problem for the Dutch economy.

Consequently, in the following years the successive Governments introduced measures and strategies to promote sustainable employability of the Dutch workforce and to influence the decision making process of older workers with regards to participation in the labour market.

Aims and objectives of the policy or measure:

The main goal of the measure was to stimulate age–awareness policies in order to maximise the use of human capital in the companies and to contribute towards the development of a sustainable labour market for its older workforce.

Given the importance of the participation of older workers in the labour market, the specific objective of the policy was to encourage employers to invest in continuous education of employees; to activate preventive interventions and personnel strategies. Specifically, the subsidy regulation supported companies’ investments in the design, development and implementation of new age-awareness policies.

Main activities / actions underpinning the policy or measure:

The regulation offered subsidies to companies and social organisations to develop and implement age-conscious projects.

In this context the government implemented a number of measures to support small and medium businesses. These measures aimed at raising awareness on the topic of employability, providing practical information and tool-kits on the design and implementation of age-management measures, and disseminating good practice examples. These activities included:

  • Seminars, workshops and training sessions amongst employers;
  • Newsletters, websites and practice-related research.

From 2004 to 2007 the measure targeted organisations with more than 30 employees. While between 2008 and 2009 the focus shifted towards small organisations with less than 30 employees.

Geographical scope of policy or measure: National
Target groups: Large enterprises (250 employees or more), Older workers and unemployed (aged 50 to 64 years), Small and medium-sized enterprises (1 - 249 employees)
Outputs and outcomes of the policy or measure:
  • The measure led to an increase of age-awareness company policies aiming at extending the working lives of employees, primarily across the services sector.
  • Overall, 444 age-awareness policy projects were carried out across a number of sectors and organisations.
  • From 2004 to 2007, 1,886 applications were submitted and 310 grants were allocated.
  • From 2008 to 2009, the programme received 173 applications from sector organisations, representing a large number of small companies, and granted a subsidy to 134 projects.
  • Companies received a subsidy of a maximum of €40,000.

In 2009 a preliminary evaluation amongst 51 participating companies showed the following results:

  • 40% of the participating companies confirmed that older workers were more motivated to remain in employment after implementation of age-awareness policies. The reason for this was especially seen in the context of an improved working environment for older workers, as well as greater attention to their needs.
  • Some companies reported less cases of sickness amongst older workers. The health status of older workers was seen to be an important factor contributing to the employability; therefore, about 33% of the 51 companies used the subsidy for projects focussing on workers’ health.
  • About 25% of the 51 companies improved their communication with employees with more one-to-one sessions or meetings between managers and employees, as well as coaching sessions for both parts. The frequent meetings with managers gave older workers the opportunity to express their career aspirations and the challenges they faced in their working lives.
  • 47 out of the 51 companies continued their projects after conclusion of their subsidy period. Half of these 51 companies also expected a greater attention to age-awareness policies in the future.
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