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Programme of Comprehensive support for businesses to encourage active ageing of the workforce: opportunity for coping and responsibility

Comprehensive support for businesses to encourage active ageing workforce – ASI is a project that responds to the challenges of the ageing workforce, raising awareness of employers and employees about the negative demographic trends, eliminating stereotypes about older employees, and above all, supporting employers to effectively manage older workforce and enhancing the competencies and motivation of older employees to continue their work activity.

In the recent years, the labour market situation in Slovenia has been improving. The positive trend is reflected in the relatively high economic growth and social inclusion of the population, in improving competitiveness and in reducing unemployment. Despite the positive economic development indicators, macroeconomic analyses draw the attention on the existence of sparsely represented categories in the labour market, mostly older and low educated employees. 

Almost all European countries, including Slovenia, are facing the challenges of the ageing population. By 2020, 20.6% of the Slovenian population will be over 65 years of age. As the age of the population increases, the average age of the employees is also expected to increase. The fact is that the 55+ category is characterized by lower work activity. 

Despite the relatively high economic growth, there is a lack of adequately skilled workforce, especially in the higher age categories. The PIAAC survey noted lower skills in the population over 50 years of age. This category of population in Slovenia achieves lower results in writing skills in comparison with their peers in the participating OECD countries. 

Population competences by age: average for the OECD and EU countries and Slovenia (Source: PIAAC database 2012–2016) 

The challenge that is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of the labour market is also to provide quality and inclusive jobs for all employees. For many years, Slovenia has been promoting new forms of employment, thus increasing job insecurity. This increases precarious work and poverty among employees.

The creation of a competitive and socially responsible economy is one of the fundamental objectives of the Economic development strategy of the country. In the light of these policies, the Comprehensive support for businesses to encourage active ageing workforce – ASI initiative was created. The project is under the auspices of the Public Scholarship, Development, Disability and Maintenance Fund of the Republic of Slovenia and is co-financed by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and the European Union through the European Social Fund. 

It is about supporting employers to increase the involvement of older people in work, to strengthen their competences and to motivate them to stay active at work for as long as possible, thus helping to tackle demographic challenges in organisations. The content of the project focuses on five key areas: •    promotion and protection of health; •    ergonomics or adaptation of work and working time; •    staff development, competence development and training; •    knowledge transfer and collaboration; and •    higher commitment and involvement. 

The concept emphasises that jobs must be designed to enable the acquisition and use of complex skills, thus improving the competitiveness and work activity of older people. 

The conceptual design of the project is operationally presented in the so-called Catalogue of measures for the effective management of older employees. The first handbook in this field in Slovenia offers concrete solutions for working with higher age categories, taking into account the size, education and age, branch affiliation and financial opportunities of the individual company. 

The activity that is carried out annually as part of the project is the cycle of workshops called Zavzeti ASI. The workshops are designed for executives, company owners, HR management or HR staff. Through organised modular training, participants from the selected companies are expected to gain knowledge in the field of development and training of the older population, and subsequently to transfer it to their own companies in practice. The project encourages and also provides staffing empowerment in the formulation of strategies or pilot projects for the development and introduction of innovative solutions for maintaining the commitment and work readiness of older employees. Thus, this could contribute to one of the goals of the project – the extension of their work activity.

One important aspect of ASI is raising public awareness, especially in the field of economy, about the demographic change, its manifestations, challenges and possible solutions. Promotional activities (consultations, meetings, professional discussions) are intended for this purpose, both on national and international level. Companies that are particularly hardworking and that recognise and nurture the knowledge, experience and potential of older employees are recognised as the Age-friendly employer

International Conference: Voditelj prihodnosti, dirigent s posluhom za vsakogar, (Leader of the future: conductor paying attention to everyone) 28 May 2019

The project offers a complex approach to addressing demographic challenges, encouraging intergenerational collaboration and taking into account the potential of older employees. The objectives set are expected to be achieved over a five-year period between 2017 and 2022. The fact is, however, that the problem of the ageing working-age population has been present for a long time. It needs to be provided with fixed assets that are not tied to the limited project duration. 

It is too early to estimate the long-term effects of Comprehensive support to encourage active ageing of the work force, as these will be evident in the longer term. In the meantime, it would be interesting to look at what factors influence the fact that some companies in the same system and in the same market develop faster, are better able to use the skills, competences and potentials of all age categories, while others are less effective in doing so. 

In creating further development guidelines, it is undoubtedly necessary to offer the human potential development approach that encompasses the entire job vertical, enabling all employees to express their needs and affinities for education, training and general development. Vulnerable groups, however, will need to be offered additional learning opportunities, in order to be more motivated. 

Jasmina Mirčeva, MSc, is employed at the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education as a senior researcher. In the recent years, she has led several national research projects on participation in adult education, adult education in times of economic crisis, literacy, evaluation of various programmes, etc. She also participated in some European projects (LLL2010, INCLUDED) and coordinated the preparation of the CONFINTEA national reports. She was the leader of the research team in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

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