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STOCKHOLM, Tuesday, February 7, 2012— Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt wants people to consider working until age 75 and employers to be open to hiring those over 55.

The conservative said Sweden's generous welfare state and pension system would not be sustainable with an ageing population unless people worked longer.

In an interview with the Dagens Nyheter daily which sparked a strong reaction from labour unions, he said attitudes needed to change and employers needed to start viewing those over 50 differently.

Sweden has a flexible retirement age, between 61 and 67. Of Swedes over 65 years old, 7.8 percent were employed in 2010, says Statistics Sweden.

Reinfeldt was speaking on the eve of a Stockholm meeting with the leaders of Britain and the Nordic and Baltic countries on encouraging the elderly to stay in the workforce and women to start their own businesses.

Reinfeldt said that, with rising life expectancies, something has to give. "If people think that we can live longer and shorten our working lives, then pensions are going to be lower. The question is, are people ready for that?," he asked.

Reinfeldt said people should be prepared to have a career change when their profession becomes too physically difficult or too stressful.

"We have to start asking ourselves, 'How do we change careers in the prime of our lives? And how do we make it possible to work until we're older, maybe even much older?'"

One option was to make it easier for older people to go back to school for job retraining.

Reinfeldt's comments prompted a slew of reactions on with the influential Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) arguing that it was not feasible for its members to work to age 75.

"It is totally impossible right now, the average retirement age today is around 64," LO economist Mats Morin told Dagens Nyheter's online site. He added however that if working conditions improved, employees could stay healthier and work longer in future.