PREFAZIONE

The results of the LLEEO project can be traced back to two main objectives: the analysis and development of awareness on the social problem of older workers. The first one regards the updating, improvement and extension of the information already obtained in the -Over 45' project to another two partner countries. (1/96/1/2111/EA/III.2.A/CONT).
This first project revealed the main configurations of the labour market, the causes of the early expulsion from the labour market, operative social protection mechanisms and especially the role played by life long learning in the 4 original members of the partnership: Italy, Finland, Spain and Sweden. Bulgaria and Romania, partner countries only in the LLEEO deployment project, conducted the initial inquiry on the labour market and the other aforementioned issues on the basis of the studies already carried out in the pre-existent partnership.
Regarding this last aspect, the method used in the LLEEO project to analyse knowledge was twofold. On the one hand, we pursued a traditional methodology for the updating of data on the social-political areas already analysed previously, adding updated information on the latest national debates that accompany the now much publicised issue of older workers. On the other hand we attempted - we believe successfully - to link dissemination with knowledge acquisition by conducting a substantial number of focus groups with the involvement of policy makers, social partner representatives, labour market and training experts, entrepreneurs and workers. The logic behind the LLEEO project Focus groups was to achieve the contextual exchange between research teams (Focus animators) and the individuals called to participate due to their skills, position and experience. They were asked to provide information and considerations on I issues linked to the social problem of the Over 45; the LLEEO national teams had the I, task of initiating, along with the focus group participants, a re-formulation of their skills ( in the light of greater awareness on the new social requirement for the lengthening of B working life.


We believe that we have been successful in meeting both objectives, perhaps helped by increasing emphasis on this issue in the national political discourses of all EU member countries. However, this introduction will not address the mammoth task of listing the results of each of the 28 Focus Groups conducted during the LLEEO project. Considerable organisation was required given the complex and varied structure that we intended to give to this exceptional occasion for analysis and the positive 'provocation' of experts and policy-makers on such a controversial issue such as that of older workers which still has not been adequately converted into concrete organisational practices. Verbally there was a lot of consensus but when it came down to the facts, we discussed a series of observations with our key actors on the distractions, delays and difficulties in contrasting such an implicit and tacit discriminatory procedure. If we can come to some sort of conclusion, we can say that older workers are kept on at work beyond retirement age, perhaps as freelancers, because either their professional skills are irreplaceable or younger people are not able or do not want to do that particular job. Any attempt at giving a summary and homologation of the material, given the vast amount of information and suggestions gathered, would in some way undermine the results so we intentionally decided to give a detailed account of the proceedings and outcomes. Indeed each national report gives a synthesis of the main results of the Focus groups conducted in each country (6 in each of the countries involved in the original
partnership and two for each of the Eastern European countries). On the general profiles of the labour market and evolutions in the training system in the various countries it is possible to outline some aspects on the main similarities and differences observed: - An ageing process of the population and workforce is underway that is forcing national governments to closely examine the situation and in many cases introduce measures to encourage the lengthening of active life; - Such trends have taken on different forms in EU and Eastern European countries where there is still a clearly lower life expectancy, especially among men, than in I the EU. Indeed, in the EU demographic and workforce ageing are due respectively | to the reduction in birth rate and migratory processes;

National governments in the EU have introduced measures to increase the activity rates of older people with different results in the Northern and Mediterranean areas
of Europe;
- The Eastern European countries, still greatly traumatised by the collapse in centralised economies and fictitious announcements of full employment rates, resort to age management policies in the labour market, mainly public early exit incentives;
- The perception of the difficulties of the elderly in the labour market is still mostly conditioned by focus on youth unemployment (and this concern is much greater m East and South Europe as well as in Scandinavian countries);
- Opinion leaders view traditional and continuous education systems as opportunities to correct early exit trends but in concrete terms, it seems that the real penetration of this instrument as a key element for the re-training and maintenance of elderly workers in the labour market requires greater maturation and better tools. Even the I northern countries that participated in the study and dissemination presented here, I complain of these limitations.

The above mentioned points are accurately described and deeply analysed in each
National Report, in relation to the Country state-of-the-art and culture of ageing, training and work.
Singular indexes follow a similar structure, elaborated in the first transnational meeting |pf this LLEEO project, so that any reader of this final report could easily find information related to the same topics by following the different National reports. A part from Italy (co-ordinator), other "old" partners' results are presented in alphabetical order. The Reports of the "new" ones - Bulgaria and Romania - follow.