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Norway: Investing in Grey Gold

Norway is making a conscious effort to encourage more older people to stay in work longer. This move is aimed at fighting the myth that older people cannot keep up with developments and making it worthwhile for companies to hold onto their older workforce.

Nov 01, 2001 | Text: Berit Kvam

"The reason why Norway is focussing on older people, in particular, is that we have such high employment. We've already used up any spare workforce. Companies and other enterprises really need those people who are currently opting to retire at 60," says Ingrid Steen Malt from the Norwegian employers' organisation, NHO.

The focus on older people is a tripartite co-operation between employers, the trade unions and the government. There is broad agreement that the aim is for fit older people to stay at work longer. But LO (the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions) has been careful to defend the right to a contractual pension, which is negotiated and set out in various agreements. It gives older employees the right to retire at 62 with approximately 55% of an industrial worker's pay.

"We see contractual pensions as an important opportunity for people who are worn out to leave in a more dignified way," says Eystein Gjeldsvik from the Norwegian LO.

He and Ingrid Steen Malt will be jointly presenting the Norwegian initiative in Brussels during Employment Week from 27 - 29 November. The fact that the Norwegian government will be reducing employers' contributions (Arbeidsgiveravgiften) to employees over 62 from 14.1% to 10.1% as from 1 July 2002 is seen by both as being a positive step. A campaign will be run alongside to fight the prejudices older people have about themselvesand the prejudices companies have about their older workforce.

"There's a number of myths about older people, that they can't get to grips with new technology and that their memory starts to fade. In reality, most faculties improve with age. It's only physical strength that starts to deteriorate, and that depends on the shape the person keeps himself or herself in. There are big differences between individuals," says Ingrid Steen Malt.

A big problem is when companies shed workers, it is often the older people who go first. They also have most difficulty in finding new jobs.

"Once you've passed 50, it’s very difficult to get a new job. Norwegian companies are no better than companies in other countries. The economic incentive to retire early is not so big, but companies often offer older workers a retirement package which makes it difficult to say no," she continues.

Eystein Gjeldsvik from the LO also believes it wrong to use contractual pensions to shed staff.

 

 

Facts:
  • The Nordic model represents a partnership between employers, trade unions and the government, whereby these social partners negotiate the terms to regulating the workplace among themselves, rather than the terms being imposed by law.

 

  • Through collective bargaining, agreements are reached which apply industry-wide. Employers accept the trade unions' right to organise workers, while the trade unions accept that the employers have the right to manage and allocate the work.

 

  • The model assumes that both the trade unions and the employer organisations are representative. From an international perspective, the level of organisation among employees is extremely high in the Nordic countries, between 50 and 80 %.This is also the case among employers.

 

  • The Nordic model is supported by the state pursuing an active employment policy. It is based partly on keeping unemployment low and partly on improving the chances of the unemployed of finding a job through the provision of training.