Active ageing and intergenerational solidarity among ethnic & religious minorities and migrants

Editorial by Michaël Privot, ENAR Director

Welcome to this new edition of the ENARgy webzine! In this European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, we look at the specific situation of older migrants and ethnic and religious minorities in Europe. This issue starts with an initial overall assessment of the 2012 Year, both from the European Commission’s and civil society’s perspective, and then further explores the specific challenges faced by older migrants and ethnic minorities in the EU and how these should be addressed. Further articles focus on specific issues affecting older ethnic minorities and migrants, including employment, care, housing, financial inclusion and intergenerational solidarity, and provide a combination of best practices, testimonies, and experts’ insights in these areas.

Frequently the “migrant” factor is forgotten in discussions on Europe’s ageing population, despite the fact that the EU is home to a significant population of older migrants and ethnic and religious minorities. Many are approaching or have entered into their fifties, having settled in European countries during their early-working and childhood years. Numbers of older ethnic minorities in Europe will continue to grow with current demographic trends and ongoing migration to Europe. In addition, older migrants and ethnic minorities face specific challenges, for instance, in accessing care, the labour market, and being able to participate fully in society.

They face the same problems of access and opportunity in the labour market as any older worker, but these are compounded by discrimination, lack of access to training and lifelong learning obstacles, as well as earlier experiences (and repercussions) of not having qualifications obtained in their home country recognized in Europe. Unemployed or retired migrants face particular difficulties due to insufficient pension/national insurance contributions because of undocumented or incomplete employment records in the EU.

They also share the same difficulties any ageing person may encounter in accessing healthcare and long term care, but with additional challenges, including premature ageing due to harsh working and housing conditions, as well as a loss of command of their host country language, particularly if they suffer from dementia/Alzheimer. Older ethnic In addition, long term care facilities are often not adapted to the cultural, religious or linguistic needs of older migrants and ethnic minorities.

Despite these realities, governments across Europe continue to consider migration as a temporary phenomenon and do not address the specific needs of this population group, who face higher risks of discrimination, poverty, isolation, and health problems. They also ignore the fact that older migrants and ethnic and religious minorities have not only contributed financially to their ‘host’ countries’ economies throughout their working lives, but they have also made - and continue to make - a valuable contribution to society by volunteering, in particular within their own communities, in education and/or social services.

EU and national decision makers and public authorities need to address these issues by adopting targeted measures and encouraging initiatives in this area. Only in this way will we foster older ethnic minorities’ and migrants’ social and economic inclusion and allow them to age in dignity.


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