At the European level we should consider the achievements of the different societies - in terms of culture and in economic fields of action when considering ways to improve the qualities ranging from services, tourism, culture, wellness, and health to products and services which help support independent living.
As European politicians, decision makers in organisations as well as senior citizens themselves more strongly embrace this perspective, new powerful markets for products, services, economic co-operatives and networks will emerge from which all European regions can economically benefit. Within the Silver Economy Network of European Regions (SEN@ER), we expect the development and implementation of the "Silver Economy" to have a positive impact on economic growth and job creation in Europe.
We are convinced that senior citizens will add a major impetus to significant parts of the economy. For North Rhine-Westphalia - Germany's largest state with a population of roughly 18 million - where the state government initiated a "Silver economy" initiative, recent calculations have shown that a proactive response to the needs and interests of the elderly could lead to some 100.000 new jobs. Similar calculations for Germany as a whole predict more than 900.000 new jobs in the "Silver Economy" within the next two decades. There are no other sectors or businesses with a higher growth potential. These calculations should be comparable to other regions and countries in Europe.
The European Union needs a European "Silver Economy" initiative to further improve the quality of life for older citizens and to reap the benefits of the demographic change in terms of economic growth, jobs, employment and competitiveness. This initiative should be developed by the Commission and eventually implemented at all regional levels.
The "Silver Economy Network of European Regions" has been developed by North Rhine-Westphalia along with Andalucia (ES), Burgenland (AT), Extremadura (ES), Gelderland (NL), Limburg (NL), Lower Silesia (PL), Mid-East Region Ireland (IE), Midland Region Ireland (IE), Scotland (UK) and West-Midlands (UK). The network is alive! We are actively developing concepts to further implement relevant projects and activities. We are confident that the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council will support us and look forward to a multitude of European activity also at the political level.
Speech by Armin Laschet,North Rhine-Westphalia Minister for the Generations, Family, Women and Integration