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Editorial: The good life as a centenarian

| Berit Kvam

The good life as a centenarian is so far reserved for the very few, but this year the first post war generation turns 67. This is a watershed. Already in 2017 there will be fewer people in work than outside of work. Active ageing has never been more relevant.

When Denmark staged the opening conference for ‘The European year for active ageing and solidarity between generations’, the Danes gathered two EU commissioners, several government ministers and representatives from authorities, NGOs, the social partners, researchers and journalists from across Europe. The conference encompassed the entire spectre of issues emerging from an ageing society - not least the challenges associated with the fact that older people become older and stay young and healthy for longer. If more and more people live until they are a hundred they could be enjoying 30 years of retirement. But this could also mean a burden on society, the older people themselves and not least on younger generations when fewer people of employable age contribute to the welfare society. This is why active ageing is being made a top priority in Europe.

When Sweden organised the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm in February, the conference gathered nine leaders from the UK, the Baltic and Nordic countries, researchers and business leaders. One of two main themes was how to get more people to work into older age. Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt himself created a debate on the eve of the conference when suggesting that we might have to work until we turn 75.

When Norway’s Minister for Labour, Hanne Bjurstrøm, opened the Norwegian year for active ageing, she promoted the idea of a flexible retirement age, yet she maintained she was not sure that abandoning the 70 year limit would be the best senior policy initiative.
In Iceland it is not unusual for people to work until the age of

75, and Icelanders work for longer than anyone else in Europe. Icelanders like to work, our correspondent writes. Why? And have employers used the crisis to get rid of older workers?

The quality of working life is crucial to getting people to stay in work for longer. Many employers used to do all they could to get rid of older employees. This mentality appears to have changed. Yet there seems to be few leaders who make a conscious decision to do something in order to hold  on to older workers. We highlight two good examples: the Sahalahti model in Finland and Vattenfall in Sweden.

The demographic development, debated for years, has for many remained a distant future issue. Now the future has arrived. The Nordic Labour Journal's theme will highlight some of the debates and consequences linked to this.

When the World War II baby boomers leave the labour market, we are at the beginning of something Europe has never seen the like of. That’s when the debates about the future become interesting. In five years there might be fewer people working than people who aren’t. In not too long we might well be debating how the good life as a centenarian should be.

 

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