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I will work for as long as possible

I will work for as long as possible

| Text: Marie Preisler, photo: Tomas Bertelsen

64-year-old Jan Hansen has been working since he started out as an apprentice for a carpenter at 17. He has been through a knee operation and is waiting for another one, but does not long for the day he retires.

Jan Hansen loves his job as a partner at a small two-person carpentry company, and would refuse an early state pension if one was offered to him.

“I like creating beautiful things that people can enjoy and that not everyone can make, and I enjoy talking to my customers and my partner at the company. So I am in no rush to retire if my body holds up.” 

A lot of heavy lifting and working on his knees has been tough on his legs. At 62 he had a knee replacement and wondered whether he would regain full use of his leg. Only three months after the operation he had retrained the knee and was back working "at full speed”, he explains. 

Putting off retirement

Now his other knee hurts so much that he expects he will have it replaced in a couple of months. If that operation goes well, his plan is to carry on working full-time until he turns 67 and a half and can draw a state pension. That is three years away, and he wouldn’t mind working beyond that if he is still healthy. 

“Working has always been and still is a very large part of my life, so I definitely don’t look forward to retiring and I don’t want to think about it. I guess I am avoiding it because it is not a nice thought.”

He likes the government’s plan to offer early retirement to people who started working at an early age, even though he himself is not interested. But he doubts whether early retirement will benefit those who really need it.

“It’s a good idea, but the government’s proposed scheme is narrow and will benefit just a few. I know craftsmen who are physically worn out but who have not been long enough in the labour market to be part of the scheme. Some of them have to retrain late in life instead, although they don’t want to. I am happy that is not me.”

More part-time work

He has never during his long working life considered getting another education, not even when his knees have hurt the most. Yet he wouldn’t mind reducing his weekly hours a bit in a few years when he approaches the end of his working life. Right now he puts in 37 hours a week, plus the necessary office work that comes with running a company. 

He could work less as he is a sole trader and is able to decide which and how many tasks he will accept, and he would like to see part-time work being an available option for senior workers who do not have that opportunity today.

“I don’t know anyone my age who wants to completely stop working and do nothing or play golf if they were able to carry on working reduced hours instead. When you’re in your 60s and 70s you have a lot of experience, and this could be used better if the labour market offered a better opportunity to work part-time.”

Jan Hansen’s wife Mona has worked as a sandwich maker since she was 14. Like him, she likes her job, but she is eight years his junior and an early state pension could be an option for her.

“That is something we will consider,” says Jan Hansen.

Filed under:
The right to retire early

Photo: Tomas Bertelsen

The Danish government believes people should have the right to retire early on a state pension if they have been working since they were teenagers. Trade unions are rejoicing while employers and others have their doubts.

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