Flexible retirement – a model for the future? Lessons from Sweden, Norway and Finland

Finnish Centre for Pensions, Reports 06/2017


Mika Vidlund

This report reviews the change in retirement behaviour in Sweden, Norway and Finland after recent old-age pension reforms and, particularly, how flexible retirement together with the establishment of early old-age pensions has affected pension take-up and at what age do people draw their pensions.

Main results

The principles and main features of the flexible pension design are pretty much the same in Sweden, Norway and Finland, although the schemes differ from each other in some aspect.

So far, the experiences from all three countries indicate that people want to combine work and retirement income. People drawing a partial old-age pension in Finland can take out either 25% or 50% of the pension they have accrued. In Sweden and Norway, the system is even more flexible, with more alternatives.

Currently, the change in retirement behaviour is most eye-catching in Norway, where a growing number of people have chosen to combine employment with pension benefit take-up. The findings suggest that the implementation of the policy has altered the pattern of pension withdrawal among men. This is most eye-catching in Norway, where almost 40% of the men claim their pension as soon as they can, at age 62. The retirement behaviour is clearly two-folded, though, since another 40% wait until they turn 67. In Sweden, the change in the take up ratio has been much more modest.

In both Norway and Sweden, people prefer to draw a full early pension rather than a partial one. Around 90 per cent of those who have taken the early old-age pension are drawing their pension in full.


Sweden: Share of old-age pensioners of all 61-64-year-olds in 2003-2015

Norway: Share of old-age pensioners of all 62-66-year-olds in 2011-2015