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Reinfeldt shouldn’t have mentioned a number

February 8, 2012

Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt gave an interview in Dagens Nyheter yesterday where he said that with the rising life expectancies, if people want to keep a high standard of living as pensioners, they will have to work longer. Reinfeldt put forward the opinion that a person who can no longer keep up with his/her physically demanding work should switch to a different line of work, rather than retire. He said that a paradigm shift is needed in how we think about work. Employers need to realize that a 55-year-old person can still work for maybe 20 years (in an office job, for instance) and employees need to realize that it’s not reasonable to stick to the same job for your whole life. He said that to facilitate career switches, student loans should be made available to people of all ages, not just people under 54 as is the case today. And yes, he did say that in his model, standard retirement age would be 75 years.

He really shouldn’t have said that.

Because that seems to be all that everybody else has heard. Too many people to list reply that (my paraphrase) “75? That’s ridiculous! People in menial jobs usually can’t keep it up with 60! He should do something about that first!” Um, people, he didn’t say that a firefighter or nurse or construction worker should remain in their jobs until they’re 75. He said that when a firefighter or nurse or construction worker can’t do the heavy lifting required in these jobs any more, they should switch to a job they can do.

Journalist Roger Älmeberg puts forward a counter-argument that isn’t based upon ignoring what Reinfeldt said.  Älmeberg’s main thesis is that we have too many unemployed, in particular too many unemployed young people, for it to be reasonable to raise retirement age. How will all these people ever find work, if old people suddenly don’t leave their jobs any more? Very good question, one I myself am thinking about. And then Älmeberg goes and demonstrates, right at the end of his debate article, that his raising of a valid criticism was only a happy coincidence. Älmeberg writes (my translation): “Fredrik Reinfeldt could make a contribution as prime minister, if his discussion about Sweden’s future pension system would include more building blocks than retirement age.” Butbutbut… Career changes? Student loans extended to middle-aged and elderly? Attitude changes? Reindfeldt mentioned all of these building blocks, at much greater lengths than retirement age.

Doesn’t anybody read the interview they are supposed to be reacting to, before reacting? I can’t even suppose that they only read the headline, because that one reads (my translation) “Mid-life career changes must be possible for more people”.


From → Our society

  1. Josef permalink

    My guess is that they just read the lead paragraph.

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  1. Well said « Grownup points

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