SWEDEN - Sweden's former minister of finance has urged the country's government to adopt the Danish approach to retirement by indexing pensions age.

In a letter to Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, Erik Åsbrink, chairman of the country's largest pension insurer Alecta, argued that the way to increase retirement age was to follow Denmark's approach, where retirement age is indexed - meaning retirement ages would automatically increase in line with rising longevity.

Åsbrink argued that the current flexible retirement age of between 61 and 67, as well as various other measures, had increased the time spent working, but that the real retirement age was still well below 65. This made it necessary to introduce further measures to ensure that people have the opportunity to work longer - beyond the mandatory retirement age of 67 - as they lived and stayed healthy longer.

He urged that the flexible retirement ages are all reviewed, since there was currently no fixed retirement age.

Åsbrink said he recognised that there were considerable individual differences in how long people were able to continue working, and argued for improvements in work-place environment, education, part-time work and preventative healthcare.

Åsbrink's letter was published the same week as the prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, also urged more flexibility and the opportunity for those who were able to work until 75. His remarks attracted fierce criticism, and were interpreted to mean everyone should work until 75, which the prime minister has since clarified was not his intention.

Apart from his role at Alecta, Åsbrink sits on several other boards and holds directorships in Swedish companies. He joined Goldman Sachs last year as an international adviser, providing strategic advice on business development opportunities in Sweden and the Nordic region.

He served as minister of finance from 1996 to 1999 and prior to that held numerous positions including chairman of the board of the Swedish Central Bank, Sveriges Riksbank, and was secretary of state in the ministry of finance.