20190211 Konference DemografiskieIzaicinajumi 083In order to address Latvia’s demographic challenges, policymakers need to take into consideration a range of issues concerning the country’s ageing population, and not just its low birth rates; this is the conclusion made by scientists and politicians at the “Demographic Challenges: From Knowledge to Action” conference which took place on 11th February as part of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) “Science Meets Parliaments” program.

In order to develop evidence-informed policy and to appreciate the untapped potential in people’s healthy and active ageing, several countries have set out to measure the Active Ageing Index. This is a tool for measuring the level to which older people can live independently, find paid work and enjoy an active physical and social life as they age. One of the authors of this index and Professor at Seoul National University, Asghar Zaidi, spoke at the conference about ways to turn Latvia’s challenges in active ageing into opportunities. He stressed the need to make improvements in employment and lifelong learning for Latvia’s ageing population.

Speaking about older people’s impact on the national economy and demographics, JRC’s Centre for Population and Migration Expertise researcher, Michaela Potancokova, pointed out the need to focus on curbing the national death rate, which is largely due to cardiovascular disease, risk of heart attack, as well as poor diet and high alcohol consumption. According to Potancokova, the key to solving these problems is through systematic change in public health, rather than through social welfare.

The national welfare system was also mentioned by Associate Professor at Riga Stradiņš University, Ivars Vanadziņš, who spoke about the need to review the mechanism for administering various benefit payments, saying that more attention should be paid to people’s fitness for work. “If a disability entails a 30-40 percent loss in one’s fitness for work, then it’s essential to focus on the remaining 60-70 percent that the person still has. With the exception of cases of severe or congenital disability, many people can be appropriately supported to re-enter the workforce in a different field. For example, people suffering from occupational illnesses have a national fund available for this very purpose, but every year around 10-20 percent who are eligible for this fund end up not using it”. Vanadziņš also stressed that policy should be based on findings from studies done in Europe. Analysing the experience of other countries could allow us to avoid various pitfalls in our social and demographic policy.

The “Demographic Challenges: From Knowledge to Action” conference is organised by the Science and Education ministry and European Commission’s Joint Research Centre as part of the “Science Meets Parliaments” program.