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Recognition for Finland's good work on ageing challenge

Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö
15.8.2006 10.00
Press release -

Recognition for Finland’s good work on ageing challenge 2006 Carl Bertelsmann award for National Ageing Programme extension programme

Finland is to receive international recognition for its persistent efforts concerning the continuation in employment of older employees’ remaining in working life and the improvement of working conditions and the preconditions of employment. The German-based Bertelsmann Foundation has decided to present its annual award to Finland’s National Ageing Programme and its VETO, TYKES and NOSTE extension programmes. The International Carl Bertelsmann Award of EUR 150,000 is presented annually. The award will be presented in Germany on 14 September.

The German-based Bertelsmann Foundation has decided to present its international award for merit this year to Finland. The Foundation is commending Finland for its work on the early recognition of and extensive work on the problem of population ageing. According to the Foundation, demographic development demands societal changes, which make it possible for people to remain in working life longer than they do now. With the Carl Bertelsmann Award the Foundation also wants to show the way to improving the dramatically low employment figures of older employees in Germany.

The Bertelsmann Foundation is making the award to the National Ageing Programme and the Veto, Tykes and Nosto programmes that have followed on from it.

In its citation the Foundation emphasises Finland’s excellent ability to adapt to changing circumstances. According to the citation, Finland has shown that a change of direction is possible even in a difficult employment situation, when work is carried out for the objective purposefully and extensively. Especially commendable, according to appraisers, has been that Finland has drawn up a coherent national strategy that has been implemented by the government, trade unions, employers and cooperation between different ministries.

The Bertelsmann Foundation considers background to the significant labour market reforms – including Finland’s recession of the early 1990s, and from the structural change in the production of raw materials to become a producer of manufactured technology, when the updating of the skills of aging employees and remaining in employment became current issues. The Finnish government recognised the signs and responded with the broad National Ageing Programme. With the extension programmes of different ministries in the National Ageing Programme the operational models introduced developed an expansive national strategy for improving the employment opportunities of the ageing workforce. With the help of this broad reform package Finland shifted, according to the Foundation, from an ‘early retirement culture’ to a culture in which people remain longer in working life.

According to the Foundation, the results of the national strategy are impressive: the unemployment rate among older people has dropped dramatically. Unemployment among 55-59 year-olds is now 10% above the European average. It is not only a good economic situation that has been brought about. Pension reform has also managed to adjust the real retirement age by 1.2 years since 1995.

Finland’s success, according to the Foundation, is that age related factors have been taken into account in creating the preconditions for the work done by employees and for employment and has focussed on skills, improving work wellbeing and the organisation of work. Later reform work includes the pension reform that took effect at the start of 2005, which using a flexible retirement age and economic incentives aims to postpone retirement further.

According to the Foundation, good administration has ensured the realisation of the programmes. A predictive strategy was created in Finland for the political implementation of the reforms. Firstly, investment was made in information campaigns, which sought to change Finns’ image of ageing employees and identified the necessity for active measures. Following this, individual employment opportunities were reinforced and the possibility was given to older employees to work but also to grow older and remain healthy. This way pension reform and other solutions were widely accepted in Finland.

In making the award the Foundation used the Swiss organisation Prognos AG to examine the corresponding programmes of other countries, which also assessed the Finnish programmes this spring. Researchers found other exemplary projects in Australia, the Netherlands and the UK.

Award to be presented in September – prize money may go to best practices

The Carl Bertelsmann prize will be presented to Finland 14 September in Gütersloh’n, Germany. The award will be received by the former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho, during whose government of 1991-1995 the National Ageing Programme started. The keynote speech at the award ceremony will be given by German Finance Minister Michael Glos.

No official decision has yet been taken in Finland on how the prize money will be used, though one is expected in the next few weeks.

“It seems natural that the sum will be used for the sorts of projects supporting people’s coping and continuation at work,” says MSAH Permanent Secretary Markku Lehto.

“I think we should now invest especially in implementing development ideas, as well as information and the sharing of the good practices created by the programmes as widely as possible. The prize money could also be a nest egg for instance as an award for merit for the best practices created,” says Lehto who oversaw both the National Ageing Programme and the Veto programme at the MSAH.


The National Ageing Programme, implemented from 1997-2002, aimed to improve the working conditions of older employees and maintain the prerequisites of employment. The programme supported older employees in coping at work and in remaining in employment. During the period of the programme a broad debate was held on the situation, possibilities and strengths of the ageing workforce, and many research and training programmes were started.

The National Ageing Programme was based on the work of the broad-based Ikomi Committee and was carried out as an exceptionally broad cooperative project. The MSAH took overall responsibility of the programme and the consistency of its measures. Also involved in the project were the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Finance, employers’ and employees’ organisations, the Finnish Association of Local and Regional Authorities, the Institute of Occupational Health and pension companies. The National Ageing programme carried out many tens of projects, which were divided among different ministries.

The work of the National Ageing Programme continued through such things as the programme on coping at work, which has now ended, and the Veto, Tykes and Noste programmes which continue for the duration of the current government term of office, and which are all broad networking projects.

Bertelsmann-Stiftung is Germany’s largest foundation active on social development and has a long tradition of activity. The Foundation seeks to ensure, for instance by supporting research, thatsociety is prepared for future challenges. It cooperates broadly with economists and scientists, among others, both in Germany and internationally. The Foundation is independent and politically non-aligned.

The Foundation’s funding mainly comes from the Bertelsmann corporation, in whose business activities it also participates. The Bertelsmann corporation is the oldest of the largest media firms. It started operations in the 1830s as a printer-publisher of prayer books under the ownership of Carl Bertelsmann. The corporation employs about 90,000 people worldwide. Its turnover for 2005 was nearly 19 billion EUR.

The Bertelsmann Foundation has awarded the Carl Bertelsmann Prize since 1988 for the innovative and exemplary recognition and solution of crucial social development problems. The Foundation also seeks to maintain debate on social development. The prize is 150,000 EUR and is awarded annually to states, institutions and enterprises. The Foundation has a special committee responsible for awarding the prize.

Previously, the Foundation has awarded the prize especially for training projects, but in recent years has extended its scope to cover a broader spectrum of social development projects.

Further information:

Dr Johannes Meier +49 5241 81 81234

Permanent Secretary Markku Lehto, tel. +358 9 160 73763, +358 50 5551333
Deputy Director-General Rolf Myhrman/National Ageing programme, tel. +358 9 160 73831, +358 50 5599173
Project Manager Ismo Suksi/Veto Programme, tel. +358 9 160 73134, +358 400 409717
Director Eeva Larjomaa/Information and Communication Unit, tel. +358 9 160 74182, +358 50 5004504
www.stm.fi, www.vetoatyoelamaan.fi, www.klinikka.fi

Project Manager Tuomo Alasoini/Tykes Programme,tel. +358 10 604 9292, +358 50 396 0106

Project Manager Marja Pakaste /Noste Programme, tel. 020 516 3257, 0400 693 887
www.minedu.fi, www.noste-ohjelma.fi

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