Finland needs responsible generational policy

In mid-February, SYL submitted our comments on the citizens’ initiative to restore the labour pension index to salary index to Parliament’s Social Affairs and Health Committee. Although the initiative claims to want to ease poverty among pensioners, what it is about is nothing more or less than populism. If the initiative would pass, it would mean that the retirement funds would quickly be emptied and those who are students today as well as future generations would be left with no pensions. SYL’s statement can be summarised in three points:

  • The citizens’ initiative threatens the funding of pensions and this is done at the expense of younger generations.
  • The citizens’ initiative does not solve the problems with poverty among people who are retired, but mainly supports pensioners who already have quite a high income.
  • We demand responsible generational policy. The pension system is an agreement between generations, and as opposed to what is often claimed, it is those who are currently in working life who pay the pensions from one generation to another.

One of SYL’s key projects this year is called “A better generational policy” and through the project, our goal is that intergenerational equality is to be taken into account better in decision making and also that this is discussed. Also our new policy document, passed at the general assembly in November 2016, includes generational policy. For the parliamentary election 2019, we hope that both voters and politicians are aware of the importance of a functioning generational policy. For this to succeed, we need political support also from other organisations. We are hoping that both party political and independent youth organisations will listen to our message, and that also other players such as the labour market organisations see the importance of a functioning generational policy.

Pension populism is an excellent example of when it is important to consider generational policy, but we are hoping to aim further in the future than that. There are many questions that are of relevance for this theme: the increasing marginalisation of youth, the importance of education, job opportunities, environmental affairs, and activating young people – to mention a few examples. A well-functioning generational policy is about building a long-standing, stabile and sustainable society – that is why we call it future policy. During this year, you will be able to read a blog series on our website with experts, civil servants, politicians and activists giving their view on generational policy and what should be done. In this way, we will gain new insights in the topic as well as how to solve the problems.

In accordance with SYL’s values, we strive to set a courageous example. For this, we need not only talk, but also action. This is why we want to expand our own knowledge on the topic and create a group of “indicators” that we can use to check whether the policy is on the right track and finding solutions to existing problems. For this purpose, we also want to cooperate with other organisations since it might require quite a bit of time and resources.

At SYL’s kick off seminar in February, we already took the step to raise generational policy in the public debate. We organised a debate between the youth and student wings of the political parties and also organised a discussion group on the topic. Many important questions were raised during the panel discussion on generational policy. Equality, basic income, how young people can be heard, automatisation, education, direct or representative democracy, more politics in schools, and improving employability were but a few of the topics discussed.  For the smaller discussion, we had two invited external speakers. One was Lauri Kajanoja, economist at the Bank of Finland and the other Jari Hanska, who is a writer and freelance journalist. Both addresses were on the topic of the pension system, how the expenses have risen, the changes in the proportion of people in working life and retired, and what the future might look like. Some of the future prospects are unfortunately quite gloomy. We have to hope that there is political will to create a functioning and sustainable generational policy among decision makers.

Are you interested in taking part in our project for a better future policy? Do you know someone who could be or are you yourself interested in writing a post for the blog series on generational policy? Contact board member Jimmy Nylund and tell me more!

Board Member Jimmy Nylund, Board of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL)

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