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Cooperating to stop a race to the bottom

| By Berit Kvam

Not everything is perfect, but the Nordics are doing some good things, getting down to business, highlighting problems, considering the measures, wanting to learn from others without erasing political divides. This is also the case when discussing labour market inclusion, #metoo and work-related crime. Broad cooperation aims to make sure things point in the right direction.

The illustration of the criminal network shown to the Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour by the head of Norway’s Labour Inspection Authority is as convincing as it is frightening. It shows how criminals’ activities permeate the labour market, how they spread their actions and try to hide their tracks through a web of legal and illegal activities. The Nordic countries are particularly adept at finding efficient measures against work-related crime, but all are based on good cooperation – between authorities, with the social partners, businesses and across national borders. This should prevent social dumping and a race to the bottom.

The EU Commission has been sent a declaration based on the resolution which the ministers reached in unity. The Nordic region wants the EU to contribute more in the fight against work-related crime.

The European Commission has just proposed a new European labour authority. The Nordic declaration highlights the Nordic perspective in labour market politics. 

This month the NLJ tries to present a broad illustration of issues which the Swedish Presidency focused on during the meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour. One of them was #metoo, which spread like wildfire through Sweden for some months, and especially in the country’s cultural sector. In Portrait we have interviewed the Secretary Generalfor the Swedish Arts Grants Committee Anna Söderbäck. Her experiences from #metoo has made her ask for new types of leadership.

We are also curious about how Icelandic businesses follow up the equal pay legislation which was introduced at the start of the year, and we look at how Finland’s activation model works.

Between them, the Nordic countries hold the world record for high female employment rates. The exception is the employment rate among newly arrived women. A comparative study from Oxford Research points out that there is little documentation in the Nordic region of the measures which work. In this month’s theme we take a closer look at what is needed for more women to find jobs.

One example of a good labour market measure is project Mirjam, which our reporter describes after visiting Eskilstuna. The OECD’s report, which we also write about, focuses on the need for increased flexibility and more tailored and targeted measures.

But, as Sweden’s Minister for Labour and Integration Ylva Johansson said in her welcoming speech: We must not stigmatise and create an image of foreign-born women needing help in order to find work. Most are in ordinary jobs, and if foreign-born women did not go to work, Sweden would collapse. 

The Norwegian labour minister calls the cooperation with the social partners “the jewel in our crown”. That is the common denominator which means the Nordic region can benefit greatly from good cooperation, not least on measures to stop the spread of criminal networks in the labour market.


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