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Editorial

New research provides new perspectives on the labour market

| By Berit Kvam

Research and investigations provide valuable input to the political debate, to policy development and to the implementation of political measures, said Norway’s Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion Anniken Hauglie as she opened The Nordic Work Life Conference 2018 at OsloMet. The Nordic Labour Journal was inspired to focus on new knowledge on equality, the basic income and digitalisation.

Gender equality is an important precondition for women’s participation in the Nordic labour market. What, then, does the paternal quota mean for equality in work and family life? Professor Anne Lise Ellingsæter has led an investigation into working time regimes and family policies for the Norwegian government. She supported the so far most radical model for the sharing of parental leave in the Nordic region, and believes it is time father and mother share the leave fifty-fifty, with the exception of a few weeks before and after birth. The paternal quota must become law, she thinks, because experience shows that employers might disregard it otherwise. Things did not turn out the way the inquiry suggested, and Norway is still not best in the Nordic region. With the exception of Danish fathers who are sadly lagging behind, things are nevertheless moving in the right direction. And Icelandic fathers are still leading the way.

New technology and digitalisation are issues that are on all the Nordic governments’ agendas. Platforms based on algorithms control working tasks, create new types of work and new ways of connecting to the labour market. Technology will create a range of new jobs and challenges as society moves from machines and oil as the main production tools, to algorithms and data, said professors Bo Dahlbom and Ragnar Torvik in their talks on the future labour market.

At the recent conference on the Future of Work in Stockholm, the consensus was that the new labour market demands innovation when it comes to labour law and welfare systems. Will the Nordic model last into the future? Some of the challenges include the fact that employment types other than permanent full-time contracts become more and more common, and that more than half of the new jobs created in the past ten years have been so-called atypical employment relationships. More and more people also need to hold down several jobs in order to make ends meet, and the number of self-employed people who have to work as if they were employees has risen considerably in both Sweden and Norway. So we ask: Will trade unions and employers’ organisations be able to adapt to the new reality? Will we see a shift in the centre of gravity between collective agreements and legislation?

More research and inquiries are needed to find out how to shape new measures and how they work in practice – for instance the universal basic income experiment initiated by Finland’s government in 2017. The results will be ready by 2020. But Olli Kangas, the head of research responsible for carrying out the experiment, predicts that Finland will not introduce a universal basic income, partly because the Finnish government has gone the opposite way, by introducing demands for activation for people on unemployment benefit.

Finland’s unemployment also worries the country’s former Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi. For the past four years, she has been the OECD’s Deputy Secretary-General. Kiviniemi underlines how important research is for knowledge and development within the OECD. In Portrait she explains what her driving force is: Getting governments around the world to take the OECD’s message as fact – that trade leads to growth, and that economic growth must be regulated and distributed if the result is to become ‘inclusive growth’. So, at the end of this year, she will be throwing her weight behind making Finnish trade prosper.

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