Since many years, many different elements have modified the European demographic structure: on the one hand, the European women’s fertility rate decreased and is now far below the generations’ replacement rate, with a European average of approximately 1.5 child/ woman, which, on the long run, means, if we also take into account that couples have their children quite late, a decrease of population. On the other hand, progress in terms of health enabled us to gain in average 8 years of life expectancy since the 60’s. These two elements, linked to the fact that those who are now about to retire were born during the baby-boom after the Second World War, mean that, by 2050, the number of old persons in charge of an active one will drop from one for four to one for two active persons, which has significant economic consequences. According to forecasts, the global European population will slightly decrease, from 486.3 millions in 2004 to 472.2 millions in 2050, maintaining the continuity of the current immigration policy and, more important, a major change in the age structure, meaning a very high number of people over 60 and the same low fertility rate, around 1.6 child/ woman. These elements are the result of very positive advances, namely improved living and health conditions as well as the possibility to chose the number of children and decide when they are to be born.
To face this new situation, the EU countries have to adapt at several levels in order to avoid a dramatic economic impact while ensuring proper living standards for all. It seems in particular that the age of retirement will have to be progressively postponed, with the elimination of the pre-retirement system, and that health systems will have to be tailored depending on the new needs of an ageing population. In view of these different elements, the European Commission first launched a consultation through a Green Paper called “Confronting demographic change: a new solidarity between the generations”, published in 2005, which was the basis for a communication made in 2006: “The demographic future of Europe – from challenge to opportunity”, which enabled it to formalise a European integrated policy in terms of ageing population. This policy is divided in priority areas:
- Promote demographic replacement,
- Promote employment,
- Promote a more productive and dynamic Europe,
- Integrate and receive immigrants,
- Ensure viable public finances.
Thus, demographic evolution and the new needs it generates are amongst the main European concerns.
Philosophy and objectives of the network
General philosophy of the network
In Europe, the current tendency tends to extend the rules of competition and decrease public authorities’ investments in some sectors, including the sector of services for people, with a clear tendency to delegate competences to non-public organisations to fulfil missions of general interest. Moreover, most of these services are provided by organisations from the sector of social economy, which are highly focused on the social aspect of the service provided. Initiated a few years ago, the current changes that are taking place at the European level represent both an opportunity and a risk for these stakeholders, as the sector is strongly growing and tends to become more and more competitive, which can be an inconvenient for organisations that value social approach rather than economic approach.
That is the reason why several stakeholders from the social economy rally. Through the creation of a network, they want to be stronger, to exchange experiences and gain more influence at the European level, in order to guarantee the quality and maintain the social aspect of the services delivered.
Moreover, the members of the European network of social services for people share common values that should be recognised and heard at the European scale. They are, for example, in favour of the European social model of social protection.
Objectives of the network
> Provide information regarding social services for people at the European scale and regarding European legislation;
> Link the social economy stakeholders together;
> Create a resource centre in order to gather the knowledge on topics related to social services for people;
> Create European projects emphasizing the experiences and achievements of all;
> Exchange knowledge and practices with other national models;
> Favour exchanges and trainees for young professionals;
> Be a representation and lobbying tool;
> Promote and broaden the recognition of the links between social services of general interest and services for people.
The members of the network confirm their intention to work in the following fields of activity:
- Home services for households (comfort services, for those in good health receiving a service at home). These services promote cohesion, equal opportunities for men and women and balance between professional and personal life.
- Home services for dependant persons who do not depend on health institutions, mainly dependant persons (the elderly, persons with disabilities, the sick staying at home, children…) staying at home who need services.