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Pension reform needed to address low birth rates, say business and labour groups

Two major business and worker groups say Finland should reform its pension system to address the country's declining birth rates.

Vauva katsoo kameraan suu auki.
File photo. Image: Getty Images

The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) and the white collar trade union STTK said minor adjustments should be to Finland's pensions system made now to avoid having to make major changes in the future.

According to Statistics Finland the number of births in the country has been so low in recent years that it expects the population will start to decline by the year 2035.

In other words, in coming years there will be fewer people in the workforce - and less money going towards the state's pension coffers.

The country’s main private sector business lobby group EK said it is prepared to invite other organisations to discuss pension reform. The last time Finland changed its pension policies was in early 2017, when it raised the age of retirement from 63 to 65.

EK labour market specialist Vesa Rantahalvari said the implementation of those reforms have not played out as expected.

"Mainly it was the prognosis on the development of population numbers that haven't matched [expectations]. If we start devising new reforms quickly we will be able to manage with fewer changes [in the future]," Rantahalvari said.

The white collar trade union STTK's chief economist Ralf Sund recently echoed similar sentiments in his blog.

"The faster we react the more likely we can avoid ending up in an unmanageable situation in which the pension age is raised or pension amounts are cut," Sund wrote.

He said pension reform negotiations could start in March or April next year, when the Finnish Centre for Pensions is expected to release its own long-term, detailed prognosis on the situation.

"We should gather around the table right away in the spring once we find out how bad the situation is," Sund wrote.

SAK: "No acute problems"

However the blue collar confederation SAK said the topic should be examined before making sudden decisions.

The SAK's head economist, Ilkka Kaukoranta, said in terms of the pension system, the issue of dwindling birth rates needs to be taken seriously. However he said he doesn't see any acute problems looming.

"There are large investment funds that act as buffers. The effects of a fewer number of births do cause a long-term effect, but long enough that we have time to figure the scale of them," he said, adding that he wants to see the pension centre's official figures before he would consider discussing more reforms on the system.

He said it is likely pension system reforms will be examined after a new government is elected next spring.

More foreign workers

Sund and Rantahalvari both said they want Finland to encourage educated, career-oriented people from other countries to live and work here.

Sund blames the current centre-right government for the country's hobbled immigration policies.

"There are the challenges for the next government. We need a new gear in the motor, and then we'll go forward," he said.

"And we can market Finland as a secure country with good schools and safe roads to schools," Sund said.

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