The European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations 2012 was officially launched, on 18-19 January in Copenhagen. Denmark's new Minister for Social Affairs and Integration, Karen Haekkerup, outlined her priorities for the next six months on this occasion. As part of the European year 2012, she plans to place emphasis on participation in society and rehabilitation. More generally, she plans to take advantage of the rotating EU Council Presidency to reconcile the economic sphere with the social sphere.
What are your expectations of this European year 2012?
The Danish Council Presidency aims to see the European year unleash the potential of older people. With demand for health care by older people increasing and support for health care services declining, it is essential to help older people take responsibility for themselves. So we have to shift from a traditional approach of care to greater retraining and rehabilitation. Second, I think that participation in civil society - through volunteering, for example - is also an important aspect of active ageing. This type of activity should be encouraged. It is already well developed in Denmark. New Eurostat data show that 48% of Danes are involved in voluntary activities (compared with 26% in the EU27).
Denmark is also a model when it comes to employment of older people, with 75.9% of the 55-59 age group still at work (compared with 60.9% in the EU27). How do you explain this?
Over the years, we have developed a social protection system in which citizens take care of each other. We pay taxes, have free access to education and health care, and have a very flexible labour market. Our strength, in...