What opportunities and challenges does an ageing population create? How will Europe be affected by demographic changes? The Joint Programming initiative “More Years, Better Lives” (JPI MYBL) works with 17 countries to provide a combined effort for research to answer these questions.
The life expectancy in Sweden and Europe increases with every year, month and day. That every generation is living longer and healthier lives is of course a positive development, but it also causes a demographic trend where the proportion of elderly in the population is constantly increasing. This is a major societal challenge for all of Europe, which puts demands on both welfare policy as well as welfare systems design.
Meeting societal challenges together
Through common research resources and collaboration, Joint Programming will give EU member countries a collective force to face some of the social challenges facing Europe today. Together, the member countries develop and lead joint research strategies and implement initiatives in selected strategic areas. Sweden participates in JPI MYBL, where demographic trends are the focus, through Forte.
“The research areas that we have jointly identified in JPI MYBL are well-aligned with Forte’s responsibilities, so it is both natural and highly important for Forte to participate. Through Forte’s participation, researchers in Sweden have the opportunity to apply for research grants for European projects when we announce joint calls for proposals. In addition, we ensure that Swedish researchers and other stakeholders are connected to the scientific and policy-oriented work carried out within the framework of JPI MYBL”, says Tove Hammarberg, International Coordinator at Forte.
Ongoing research on extended working life
In April, Forte announced its first call for proposals within JPI MYBL, for innovative and interdisciplinary research on extended working life, together with several other research funding bodies in Europe and Canada. Forte is a contributing financer for two of the five successful grants. The projects “WORKLONG” and “THRIVE” began in January 2016 and are expected to be completed at the end of 2018 and start of 2019 respectively.
Within the project WORKLONG, a group of researchers from the Netherlands, Britain and Sweden (Umeå University) are collaborating to study the bilateral links between an extended working life and good health. Although many European countries have developed policies to encourage the population to work longer, many people are forced to leave the labour market prematurely because of poor health. The overall aim of the project is to find out more about how health interventions affect the length of working life, and how employment and retirement policies, in turn, affect health later in life.
Policies aimed at raising the retirement age do not take into consideration that the circumstances that determine employment and length of working life vary for different population groups. This is the starting point in the MYBL-financed project THRIVE. For example, people with lower education have a shorter life expectancy and a higher risk of chronic disease and disability than those with higher educations. The project group of THRIVE, which consists of six researchers from Britain, Denmark, Canada and Sweden (Karolinska Institute), will, through the project, identify those health problems which are likely to reduce the working life of more disadvantaged groups of older people – and which policies can prevent this from happening.
What happens next?
Discussions are currently underway within JPI MYBL for a new joint call for proposals which will open in 2017. When the focus of the call is adopted (expected to be during summer), Forte will take a position on whether Sweden will participate. In addition, there are plans to initiate a fast-track initiative to compile research and knowledge in the area of migration and demographic challenges.
“The broad interdisciplinary approach within JPI MYBL means that we have many interests and many important issues to consider. It is an important responsibility to coordinate the work within JPI MYBL with other European initiatives, while at the same time taking advantage of and strengthening national programmes. My hope is that the countries within JPI MYBL will continue to set aside funding for our joint efforts in this initiative”, says Tove.