Personal Care services in Europe. Synthesis.
At European level, "personal care services" or "local services" are defined as being “services which, based on geographical and/or relational proximity, address collective or individual needs that are new or insufficiently met 1”. In compliance with the Communication from the European Commission entitled "Implementing the Community Lisbon programme: Social services of general interest in the European Union", these services provide customised assistance in order to facilitate social inclusion and ensure that fundamental rights are fulfilled. "These services complement and support the role of families in providing care, in particular to the youngest and very elderly, including persons with long-term needs related to a disability or health problem”.
Currently, these services are highly regarded, as Europe's demographic and social structure has undergone changes for several years now, due to a combination of several factors: on one hand, the fertility rate of European women has decreased so that it is now significantly below the generation replacement rate with a European average of 1.5 children per woman, implying a long-term decrease in population, especially since couples are having children relatively late. Furthermore, progress made in healthcare has resulted in an increase in life expectancy by 8 years on average since the 1960s. These two elements, together with the fact that post-war baby boomers now reach retirement age, imply that by 2050, the number of people over 65 for each working-age person will increase by 50 per cent, from one elderly person for four people in working-age (current ratio), to one for two (ration by 2050). This evolution will result in important economic consequences. According to the trends forecast, the total population of Europe should slightly decrease from 486.3 million in 2004 to 472.2 million in 2050. This estimate is based on the hypotheses that the current immigration policy will continue, and above all, that major changes will occur in the age structure, leading to a substantial increase in the number of people older than 60 and to a remaining low fertility rate of about 1.6.
In order to face up to this new situation, the member states of the European Union must adapt at several levels so as to prevent these elements from having too much of an economic impact, whilst ensuring an acceptable standard of living for everyone. We see that healthcare
systems in particular will have to be adapted to the new needs of an ageing population. Parallel to this trend, the employment rate of women has greatly risen over the past few years, implying new service needs in order to better reconcile work and family life.
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