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Finns want to work longer

| Text: Carl-Gustav Lindén

The debate on retirement age has been intense in Finland in recent years, and now it is really starting to take off. New research shows more and more Finns are prepared to work after the age of 63. Meanwhile the government is trying through normative means to get people to stay in work until they are at least 65.

One year ago prime minister Matti Vanhanen (the Centre Party) unilaterally proclaimed the Finish retirement age should be increased to 65. The prime minister ignited a debate which shows no sign of abating. And still the effects of the previous 2005 pension reform are just beginning to be felt. Last year the actual retirement age rose.

The debate does seem to have created some sort of a common acceptance that something radical must be done in this country where the population is aging faster than anywhere else in Europe. The Finnish Institute of occupational Health has published a new survey - Work and Health in Finland 2009 - showing an increased willingness among people to work also after the age of 63. No more than one third of people aged 45 and older say they cannot imagine staying in work for longer - a figure down from the previous survey of 2006.   

Those with higher education are the ones most ready for a longer working life. But their readiness is not without conditions: they want to enjoy good health, a better economy, a meaningful job and flexible working hours. And the people most likely to be able to enjoy a more flexible working life are white-collar workers in higher positions, while care workers, service industry and retail workers are left with less room for individual solutions. Yet the ability to also take care of the workers' needs is the key to a better working life. 

"This kind of mutual flexibility on working hours increases the workers' psychological and social well-being," says Irja Kandolin from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. 

The government is sticking to its plan for an increase in the retirement age, and is preparing a new political programme for economic growth and employment. Trade unions and employers are part of negotiations to be held in September 2010. Earlier this year a working group failed to bridge the gap between the parties on the issue of retirement.


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