The departing head of Finland’s biggest pension fund said the labour-shortage problem the Nordic country faces is serious, and needs a comprehensive programme of measures to tackle it.
In a blog posted on the website of public-sector pension fund Keva, chief executive officer Timo Kietäväinen said that for several years, more people had retired from the labour market than joined it, and even though the pace of retirement had slowed and people were retiring later, Finland was facing a worsening labour shortage.
The CEO said: “It seems that there is still no recognition of how serious a problem this is, a problem that cannot be solved by individual measures alone.”
Kietäväinen said the recent debate about the problem had focused on presenting individual measures and shooting them down, as he said had been the case this summer with the debate on tax incentives for retirees.
The worsening labour shortage called for a number of national-level solutions, he said, and a national programme working in the same direction.
While workers were scarce in several areas of both private and public sectors in Finland, Kietäväinen said the worst situation in the public sphere was the healthcare sector, where 8,000 more nurses were currently needed.
The labour force participation rate had to be increased in order to reduce unemployment, he said. “Here, I see great opportunities in the transfer of responsibility for the employment policy from the state to the municipalities,” said the CEO of the €58bn pension fund.
Education – including adult education – also needed to focus more clearly on labour shortage areas, he said, and work-related immigration had to be promoted, while also improving integration of people who had already moved to Finland.
Disability prevention activities were also needed, he said, as currently, about 20,000 skilled people went from working life to disability retirement – even though he said the number of those retiring on disability pension had decreased.
“This is a tip for the new municipal councils,” the Keva CEO noted. “The cost of incapacity for work, i.e. sick leave and retirement, is €2bn a year in the municipal sector.
“According to Keva’s estimates, half a billion euros a year could be saved by good work ability management,” he said.
Kietäväinen, who is himself retiring at the beginning of November, also said taxation had to be changed to make it more profitable for retired people to be employed.
“Changes are also needed in the attitudes of employers and, more generally, in our working lives.
An ageing and retired person must be seen as a resource whose work and skills can take care of many important tasks,” he added.
Earlier this month, Jouko Pölönen, president and CEO of Ilmarinen – the largest private sector occupational pension provider – weighed into the debate saying work-based immigration ought to be made easier in Finland, and foreign students should also be encouraged to come to the country and work there.