Danes mirror the British experience

21st March 1997 at 00:00
Denmark is facing very similar problems to the UK. After a period of rapid changes in schools, many teachers feel burnt-out and they are desperate to retire early. Thirteen per cent want to retire before they are 60, while 60 per cent want to go between 60 and 64, according to a recent survey by the Danish Union of Teachers.

As the official retirement age is 67 in Denmark, teachers generally cannot leave until their early sixties. They receive a small reduction in their pension; there is no enhancement, but the pension will be based on their years of service.

Denmark, like the UK, needs to retain as many experienced teachers as possible to avoid a shortage. The average age of teachers is now around 46 and, following a slump in the birthrate, relatively few new members joined the profession in the 1980s.

Although the Danish government says it does not want to forbid early retirement, it is considering cheaper alternatives and it has already introduced savings in the superannuation system.

Along with their colleagues in Germany, Danish teachers used to enjoy the status of civil servants, who have their entire pension contributions paid by the government. Nowadays, teachers are employed directly by the local authorities and they must pay into a real pension fund.

Incentives are now being considered to encourage teachers to stay on. One option could be a part-time pension, which would, for instance, allow teachers who reduced their hours to three days a week to collect two-fifths of their pension.

Another Danish suggestion is very similar to "stepping-down"; teachers would be able to switch to a post with less responsibility, while still preserving most of their pensions.

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