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Who pays for Corona in the end?

| By Björn Lindahl, editor in chief

We all benefit from measures to prevent transmission, but the economic consequences are not equally divided. The contamination risk must therefore be measured against the economic consequences, now that the Nordic countries are entering a phase of reopening their societies.

That is the advice from an expert group set up by the Danish government to look at how the restrictions that have paralysed parts of society can be lifted.

The Corona epidemic will change society in different ways, and it will vary between sectors. When Danish hairdressers reopened, their turnover increased until it was higher than in pre-pandemic days. But clothes shops still make 75% of what they did at the same time last year.

Norway’s Minister of Finance Jan Tore Sanner points out that the 2008 financial crisis only led to a 0.1% fall in the global GDP. The IMF forecasts that the Corona pandemic will lead to a 3.0% fall.

For now, the fear of infection is greater than the fear of unemployment, at least in the Nordics. But Nordic employment agencies are working full tilt. We have spoken to the directors of public employment agencies in Denmark and Iceland as well as one of those who work directly with people who have lost their jobs in Sweden, Susanne Pettersson-Graff.

She tells us how her job now resembles that in a call centre, where statistics over successful calls are kept while she constantly has 400-500 callers on hold.

Åsa Johansson, head of the department representing employment service employees at the Union of Civil Servants, warns the agency’s schedule is now so busy the staff are at risk of burn-out. 

European employment agencies have issued a report showing prolonged sitting at work now represents the third largest health and safety risk – and that was before the pandemic. Who is responsible for a safe work environment in the new home offices?

Many probably long to return to the open-plan office. We write about how consultancy engineering firm Rambøll is planning to reopen their workplaces in a safe manner.

One who has refused to sit still is the Oslo-based Israeli dancer Yaniv Cohen. He started a new cultural phenomenon when he realised that many children were prevented from having a birthday party. He offered to dance for free outside their houses, like a splash of colour in everyday lockdown life. Many colleagues were inspired to take part, and it also gives them a small income.  

“It’s the most motivated who gets the job,” was the message Flor Santamaria Mujica got when she was offered a career development course by the Norwegian employment service NAV after being unemployed for six months. She tells her story from a Latin American point of view.

Is motivation or pay the problem when the Nordic agriculture sectors desperately appeal for season workers? Will Thai workers be flown to Finnish Lapland this summer to pick berries?

One thing is certain: Labour market researchers will be busy for a while. The first results have already started to come in, like the Norwegian Work Research Institute WRI’s working life barometer. WRI rapidly created corona-related questions for its annual survey. The answers indicate that the pandemic’s economic consequences hit people on the lowest wages and lowest income the hardest. Is anyone surprised?


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