By Kati Kuitto
Despite massive popular opposition and bypassing parliament, the French government recently pushed through a gradual increase in the retirement age. The reason: There are fewer working-age taxpayers and contributors, and increasing numbers of pensioners and elderly people in need of care. France is certainly not alone in facing this problem. In a total of 18 out of 41 industrialized countries surveyed by the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI), the ratio between older people and the working population has become critical. Extending working lives has therefore become one of the central sociopolitical goals of recent years.
After Japan, Finland is the country which is most and most rapidly affected by demographic aging. The record low fertility rate of not even 1.4 children per woman in recent years and low net immigration reinforce the negative trend and threaten the financial sustainability of the welfare state. In Finland, however, policymakers reacted relatively early and looked for solutions - and some results of the reforms are already showing.