Danish government drops plan to increase retirement age

Denmark’s prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced Monday that plans to increase the country’s retirement age would be dropped after conceding parliamentary majority is unobtainable.

Danish government drops plan to increase retirement age
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. Photo: Nikolai Linares/Scanpix

The minimum age for Danes to draw pensions had been slated for a six-month increase from the current age of 67 to 67.5 years.

But the coalition government has now withdrawn plans to go through with the proposal in the absence of an overall parliamentary majority in support of the plan, the PM told broadcaster DR.

“A broad majority, including the [opposition, ed.] Social Democrats and the Danish People’s Party has already decided that the minimum pension age should increase gradually as Danes live longer. Today we are living for longer than we expected, and at the same time we are short of available workers. It would therefore make sense to adjust the proposal, creating more equality between generations and securing our progress and well-being,” Rasmussen said.

But the PM said that the planned inclusion of the proposal in a new package of employment reforms to be presented by the government next week would now not include an increase to the minimum pension age.

The reforms will still include provisions making it easier to continue working beyond the current retirement age of 67, while not making any change to the eligibility age for the state pension.

Opposition to the now-dropped plan to increase the retirement age came from the Danish parliament’s two biggest parties, the opposition Social Democrats and the populist Danish People’s Party (DF), which has remained outside of Denmark’s centre-right coalition despite increasing its parliamentary share in consecutive elections.

The leaders of the two parties announced in a double interview with union magazine Fagbladet 3F earlier this year that they would not support an increase to the minimum pension age, thereby giving the government an uphill task to secure a majority for the proposal.

“This is a very good piece of news from the prime minister… DF has fought against further raising the retirement age, and the government has now realised it will be very difficult to get through parliament, and is therefore dropping the proposal. So it’s really good news,” said DF party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl to DR.

Social Democrat spokesperson Nicolai Wammen echoed the comments of Dahl.

“It is gratifying that Lars Løkke is now throwing in the towel and finally admitting that there is no support, either in parliament or amongst the population, for the government’s plan for later retirement,” Wammen told DR.

“It is far more constructive to look at how we can ensure that seniors who are fresh enough, fit enough and good enough physically can remain in the employment sector,” Dahl added.

READ ALSO: Denmark to do away with forced retirement

But the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party called Løkke “historically weak” after the forced pensions climbdown.

“Even though Venstre, Liberal Alliance and the Conservatives are sitting in government, it’s apparently Kristian Thulesen Dahl doing the governing. This is a complete belly flop for the government’s economic policies, and we are dealing with a government that is living on pretences,” Social Liberal leader Morten Østergaard, whose centre-left party supports increasing the retirement age, said to DR.

Østergaard said that Rasmussen was one of the “weakest prime ministers in the history of Denmark” in reference to the government's inability to push through any policies opposed by the two parties in parliament – the Social Democrats and DF – that have more MPs than Rasmussen's own Venstre (Liberal) party.

Rasmussen has stated several times his own wish to increase Denmark’s retirement age, citing a faster-than-expected uptick to life expectancy in the country.

“The increasing challenge facing us in the coming years is that many will be drawing pensions while fewer will be on the job market relative to our expectations. We therefore propose to adjust the pension age… so those that are able to can work for a half year more,” he said at a press meeting in August 2016.

The proposal also survived a government reshuffle as the Liberal Alliance and Conservative parties joined Rasmussen’s Venstre party in coalition in November.

Although parliament agreed that the retirement age should be raised in sync with longer life expectancies as long ago as 2006, life expectancies have since increased even more than expected, reports DR.

The government’s target is for pensions to provide for an average of 14.5 years of life per citizen.


‘This is how to leave office’: Former Danish PM sends Trump a message

Former Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen had a few words of advice for US president Donald Trump on Friday.

'This is how to leave office': Former Danish PM sends Trump a message
Former Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix

In a Twitter post, Rasmussen, who was Danish premier from 2009-2011 and 2015-2019, tagged Trump and said he had “just a little piece of advice”.

“This is the right way to leave office with honor once you have lost election,” Rasmussen continued, posting a photograph of himself walking away from the Danish parliament in Copenhagen with a rucksack over his shoulder.

“Thanks for honest conversations over the last 4 years. Let's keep in touch. Best regards. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark,” the former PM concluded.

Trump propagated disinformation about voter fraud prior to the US election and, since Tuesday’s vote, has falsely claimed victory and filed lawsuits in a number of states, before last night making a televised speech so crammed with falsehoods that many news stations cut their broadcasts and even some Republicans condemned it as undermining democracy.

A winner of the US general election is yet to be declared, but vote counting across battleground states shows Democrat Joe Biden steadily closing in on victory.

It’s not the first time Rasmussen, whose time as leader of the Danish government overlapped with Trump’s first two years as president, has challenged the belligerent US commander-in-chief, on social media and elsewhere.

In February 2018, he tweeted Trump to ask for reform on gun control in the wake of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed.

He subsequently admitted that his tweet had not set “a new standard for diplomacy”.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen's error-strewn English is fine by us (2018)

He also made public remarks criticising Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and to censure the president over American tariffs on metal imported into the United States, and called his 2018 speech at the United Nations general assembly “discouraging”.

Rasmussen said prior to meeting Trump for the first time in 2017 that “first and foremost I want to have a good meeting” in “a good atmosphere that will allow me to keep in touch with the American president”.

If his latest social media message to the president is anything to go by, the former prime minister’s feelings haven’t changed in that regard.

READ ALSO: How are Americans in Denmark reacting to the US election?