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Nordic visions of more children and fewer suicides

| By Björn Lindahl, editor-in-chief

The Nordic cooperation's symbol is a swan. But black swans also symbolise the unexpected. This newsletter is about both birth and death. Assistant nurses play an important role in what happens between those two events.

The Nordic cooperation is based on gathering knowledge and sharing it between the five countries and the three autonomous regions. One of its most important reports is the annual State of the Nordic Region Report produced by Nordregio.

This year’s report warns too few children are being born in the Nordics, despite generous parental leave provisions and child benefits. Fertility rates in Finland, Iceland and Norway are at a record low. Only in Greenland are there twice as many children as old people, and the Faroes is the only place where more people are born than die.

At the same time, many people die unnecessarily by taking their own lives. 3 500 people die in the Nordic region each year through suicide. The Nordic Council’s session in Copenhagen presented a vision for reducing suicides with 25% by 2025. One in twenty suicides happens on railways, and become a strain also for train drivers, other personnel and other passengers. Some can be avoided by the use of platform barriers. A new vision zero is being launched for this kind of suicides. 

Right now the news cycle is focussed on the spread of a new virus in China, which has also reached the Nordic countries. The coronavirus might not be an unexpected event, as each year sees the emergence of new viruses. But the political and economic consequences could be a black swan, impossible to predict. The Nordic Council of Ministers still appears somewhat visionary when establishing a new Nordic disease control training programme in Gothenburg. The first 35 students started in the autumn of 2019, and the second group have started this year. 

Assistant nurse is the most common profession across the Nordic region, known in Sweden as undersköterska, SOSUs in Denmark, närvårdare in Finland, helsefagarbeidere in Norway and sjúkraliði in Iceland. This profession suffers from having too few people, as our story out of Denmark shows, and it needs improved status to get more people to choose it. A Swedish proposal is to make assistant nurse a protected title

We also take a historic look back at one of the more remarkable and extreme professions – the North Sea divers. They have had books written about them, but never before has a book been written by one of the divers themselves. They were all crucial to the oil industry.

Norway got a new Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion in Torbjørn Røe Isaksen on 24 January, as the Progress Party pulled out of the coalition government. In Iceland, the ASÍ and BSRB trade unions are establishing a new research institute. 

Finally, the Nordic Labour Ministers have jointly invited the EU’s new Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, to Copenhagen on 2 April. Kerstin Ahlberg explains why the Nordic countries are nervous about some of the EU proposals.


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