Monday, February 16, 2009

Record Numbers Headed For Early Retirement

Unemployment is rising sharply among the older segment of the working population. According to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the rate at which over 56-year old workers are losing jobs is higher than during the depression of 90's. Compared to last year, twice as many have been shifted into early retirement plans.

Unemployment Insurance Fund Managing Director Heikki Pohja is critical of how many companies speak of pension arrangements for older workers, when it would be more honest to say that they are being fired. "In most cases, it is a matter of the employee losing his or her job and living on unemployment benefits for several years before it is time to get an old-age pension," points out Pohja..

The rise in firings of older employees is in conflict with the government's target of keeping people in the labour force as long as possible. The chairman of a committee that has been examining an overhaul of social welfare, Markku Lehto, has expressed fears that the same thing will happen as during the last serious economic downswing: the job market will lose skilled people and know-how that it will never get back.

"This is clearly a setback. Finland was just turning over a new leaf in appreciation of older people in the workforce. It will be very difficult to get them back into the job market, even if the situation changes within two or three years," argues Lehto.
Matti Kokkinen, in Forssa, is being moved into early retirement this summer after 34 years of working at a house construction plant. As late as at the end of 2008, his job looked secure, but the situation changed rapidly. While the early retirement scheme is voluntary, he feels that he is being forced into it.

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