Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt wants Swedes to consider working until the age of 75 and to be ready to switch careers after 50, he said in an interview published in daily Dagens Nyheter on Tuesday.
His comments came on the eve of a meeting he is to host in Stockholm gathering the prime ministers of Britain and the Nordic and Baltic countries on how to get older people to stay in the work force longer and how to get more women to start their own businesses.
Reinfeldt, a conservative who heads a centre-right coalition in power since 2006, said employers need to be open to hiring people over the age of 55.
"To hire someone who is 55 who says 'yes, I plan to work until I'm 75' -- that's 20 years, that's a very long and interesting employment relationship compared to a person who at that age plans to start winding down in five or six years," he said.
Sweden currently has a flexible retirement age, where people can begin drawing on their pension at 61 and are allowed to keep working until the age of 67.
Reinfeldt said Sweden's generous welfare state and pension system would not be sustainable with an ageing population unless people worked longer.
If people think that we can live longer and shorten our working life, then pensions are going to be lower. The question is, are people ready for that?," he asked.
Reinfeldt said people should be prepared to make a career change when their profession becomes too difficult physically or too stressful.
"The left-wing believes that when your job gets too difficult you should go off on early retirement or get some type of social benefits. But I think that when work gets too tough I should do something else."
"We have to start asking ourselves, 'How are we going to do that? 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?'," he said.
One option was to make it easier for older people to go back to school for job retraining.
A total of 7.8 percent of all those over the age of 65 in Sweden were employed in 2010, according to Statistics Sweden.